Gout medicine Colcrys' pricing under scrutiny

Slate wades in on recent drug-pricing news, and accompanying outrage among some in the media and in Congress, with an update on the gout medicine colchicine. Like February's news involving KV Pharmaceutical's Makena, whose retail price retail price jumped from $15 to $1,440 per treatment, the gout medicine under the brand name Colcrys from URL Pharma has skyrocketed from 10 cents a pill to $5 per pill.

Writing in Slate, Arthur Allen--who says he was a former speechwriter for the FDA in early 2010--says the FDA's motives in ensuring regulatory standards were praiseworthy, but the drug companies who came out ahead are taking unfair advantage of the situation.

"One can't fault the FDA for the price increases for Makeda and Colcrys; the agency is doing what it's supposed to do, clearing out old drugs and improving the standards of the national Pharmacopoeia," Allen writes. "But it seems unjust--if legal--for companies to take unscrupulous advantage of patients and doctors who rely on already well-established drugs."

Gabriel Miller, writing in Pharmacy Practice News, also asks the question "Did the FDA mess up the colchicine approval?" Among the points she makes, though, is that URL Pharma was the only company that stepped up to the plate when the FDA asked colchicine manufacturers to to go through the approval process.

Miller outlines the objections from physicians and patients who believe that the FDA's actions were misguided because of the price burdens it now places those who need the medicine and, some believe, stifles innovation. The FDA defends its action by pointing to safety risks with unapproved colchicine.

- read Arthur Allen's article in Slate
and Gabriel Miller's report in Pharmacy Practice News