Drug Shortages

Apidra pens and vialsI am sure that a lot of you are aware of the shortage of Apidra SoloStar pens. The shortage was announced back in September by Sanofi Aventis and supposedly, supply would be back to normal by the first quarter of 2012. We only have 29 days left in this quarter and I have yet to hear an announcement from Sanofi Aventis as to whether or not that will actually happen.

Sanofi came out with an offer to pick up co-pays on vials, but I am excluded from that offer because I have a Medicare supplemental plan. It doesn’t matter to them that my insurance company pays just as much, if not more, for that vial of insulin as does a non-Medicare plan. Nor does Sanofi care that I only use about 50% of that vial in the 28 days that it is good for and I have to toss away a half a vial of insulin. In my mind, Sanofi is just another company ripping off Medicare. Companies like Sanofi are the ones that put Medicare in trouble. Unfortunately for me, Apidra works better than any other fast acting insulin out there and I get to choose between going with another insulin that will result in a deterioration of my control and the complications I already have or wasting insulin. For me, it is literally a choice of life and death.

For some of us, syringes are a lot harder to use than pens. Although my vision is good enough now to see the markings on a syringe, when I was going thru retinopathy and again when I had cataracts, I had a very difficult time seeing the syringes. My cousin helped me during the retinopathy period and drew up pre-filled syringes for me. Of course that meant no adjusting doses. I also have neuropathy in my hands and even though my vision is good now, my hands don’t work well enough to mess around with syringes.

PillsRight before Christmas, I was watching CNN’s Dr. Gupta discussing a shortage of cancer drugs. Dr. Gupta had another show about that last weekend. One of the most effective cancer drugs is in short supply. The drug is not some new, expensive drug but a drug that is available as a generic. The reason that it is in short supply: companies don’t make enough money for it to be worthwhile for them to make.

The father of a young boy with cancer said that he has a friend in Brazil and the drug is not in short supply down in Brazil. The FDA recently made it possible to import that same drug from Australia to help ease the shortage in the United States. The drug that cancer patients in the US are finding in short supply is widely available in other countries.

I was a bean counter and get the need to make a profit in order to stay in business. I don’t expect companies to hand stuff out for free. There is just something not right with this picture. It is very sad that people are losing their lives because of some greedy, corporate monsters.

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2 thoughts on “Drug Shortages

  1. I don’t know if, in this case, I’d blame SA as a “greedy, corporate monster”. I think that today’s healthcare system, both public (Medicare) and private (negotiated “preferred” rates) is a problem — a vial of insulin should cost the same, no matter who pays for it or how. (I don’t mean to say that companies aren’t greedy, I’m just referring to this SPECIFIC instance).

    By the way, I used a Lantus pen, also by SA, for a brief time. It was a reusable pen with refillable cartridges. If they can’t get the disposable plastic pens for Apidra, for whatever reason, I wonder why they can’t sell Apidra in cartridges for the other pen. I forget the name of it, but it had, oddly, a digital LCD display to count the number of units being dialed-up. Seems like a reasonable alternative.

    • Scott, you are right, in this specific instance, I shouldn’t have called SA that for this instance. I am bothered that they won’t let people on Medicare have the same offer that they do other insurance companies.

      I used to have the OpticClick pen for Apidra. They quit making the cartridges about a year or so ago. I would have kept using that because it wasn’t as much waste.

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