Rep. Cummings finds drug shortage gray market prospering

Targeting gray-market middlemen, Rep. Elijah Cummings has contacted 5 privately held drug distributors seeking information on how they obtained meds in short supply, how much they paid for them, as well as their selling price to hospitals, according to The Wall Street Journal. His letters to the companies may have been provoked by the discovery of a 650% average markup on such drugs in an August survey by Premier Healthcare Alliance, a healthcare purchasing network.

Cummings, who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, provided the Journal with some early responses: Miami-based Allied Medical Supply offered to sell leukemia drug cytarabine for $990 per vial (typical cost about $12, according to Cummings). Premium Health Services of Columbia, MD, hocked cancer drug leucovorin for $270 per vial (more than 50x the typical sale price) and PRN Pharmaceuticals of Rockville, MD, offered cancer drug fluorouracil for $350 per vial (typically $15).

According to the story, gray market distributors are not thought to be causing drug shortages, but rather making a bad situation worse--at great profit.

- here's the WSJ story