Scorpion antivenom's price stings AZ patients

Here's another jaw-dropping price on a new drug. The scorpion antivenom Anascorp, approved in August, is sold in Arizona these days for $12,000-plus per vial, meaning one course of treatment could run as much as $62,000. Across the border in Mexico, where Instituto Bioclon makes Anascorp, the drug has been marketed for years at about $100 per vial, the Arizona Republic reports.

What's more, Rare Disease Therapeutics won U.S. approval for Anascorp based on a tiny study--just 15 patients--led by the University of Arizona. The company didn't develop the drug and doesn't manufacture it, but rather just markets it under license from Instituto Bioclon.

But Rare Disease Therapeutics isn't wholly responsible for Anascorp's price. In Arizona, it sells the antivenom for $3,500 per dose to specialty pharma Accredo Health Care, which distributes it to hospitals around the state. Apparently, Arizona hospitals are adding the biggest mark-up to Anascorp, if the variance in their price-per-vial is any indication. The Republic found one Phoenix hospital chain charging $7,900 per vial, another billing $9,077 per vial, and a third charging $12,467.

Still, the discrepancy between Mexican prices and U.S. prices raises some questions. It reminds us of the price differential between KV Pharma's newly approved prenatal drug Makena, which, until KV ($KV.A) paid for the trials to win FDA approval, could be had for $20 a dose at a compounding pharmacy. Now, it costs $690 per weekly dose--and that's after the company lowered its price by 55% in response to public outcry.

Rare Disease's president, Milton Ellis, told the Republic that his company set the price based on a projected volume of 300-400 doses per year. In Arizona, 17,000 people are treated for scorpion stings annually. Ellis said the company paid for the clinical trials, financed the cost of FDA inspections at Instituto Bioclon's Mexican facilities, and will be on the hook for user fees if its revenue grows past $50 million, the newspaper said.

- read the Republic coverage