Okay I’m going to get off on a rant here. I had to have colonoscopy yesterday, and if you’ve ever had one you know that often the most difficult part of the process is doing the bowel cleanse the day before. To do this, doctors often prescribe a product called Halflytely®. HalfLytely® practically has a monopoly on the bowel prep market due the the fact that the patient only has to drink two liters of laxative solution and the competing products now carry an FDA warning for possible kidney damage. It’s a product that seems to effectively do it’s job; however my problem with it and the subject of this blog post has to do with its pricing. In fact I going to say that it is an outrageous case of pharmaceutical price gouging that borders on criminal. Especially if by not providing an affordable product for the uninsured that it becomes a barrier to a patient getting a colonoscopy.
The Halflyely® Package consists of a 2 liter plastic jug with a powdered mix of 210 g. of Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (Miralax Powder), 5.6 g of Sodium Chloride (salt), 2.86 g of Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), and 0.74 g of potassium chloride (often prescribed as K-Lyte CL and available OTC as a potassium supplement). The Package also contains two 5 mg Bisacodyl tablets (available OTC as Ducolax tablets), and four flavor packets with artificial fruit flavors. Before I go and tell what it would cost me to put together an equivalent product, let me tell you what Braintree Labratories charges for their Halflytely ® product. If you are uninsured, it will cost you $64.99, in my case I have Aetna insurance and my co-pay was only $60. I was so surprised that I had to ask the pharmacist if he was sure that was the correct price, and he shook his head and said yes that’s what they charge.
Upon getting home and reading the ingredient list, I knew this was a perfect case of how Pharm labs rip off patients and insurance companies and it is a clear demonstration of why American healthcare costs are so obscenely out of control. So I went to the Halflytely® website and used the webmaster contact to write the following email:
Why does your company charge $65 retail price for a bowel prep kit that contains less than $1 worth of chemicals and drugs?
Shame on you.
Admittedly I should have researched out exactly the cost to produce and I hadn’t noticed the 210 g. (7.4 oz.) of Polyethylene Glycol 3350 listed on the bottle ingredients, but here is Braintree Laboratories’ email response:
“Thank you for your inquiry. Our product does not cost less than a dollar to make, where did you get this information? Other than that, we cannot control the insurance coverage or the pharmacy and wholesaler mark ups. I apologize for any inconvenience.
Thank you, have a nice holiday.”
So this brings me to my research into what it cost to produce a similar product with the same ingredients as the Halflytely® product.
Let’s start with the assumption that the lab’s cost are going to be less than mine just because they can purchase in quantity. But for my example I’ll buy medium quantities at retail prices and round up prices to the nearest cent.
- Two 5 mg bisacodyl (Dulcolax) tablets from http://www.planetrx.com/ $0.36 (2 tabs from 100 tab box)
- One 2 liter HDPE bottle with cap from http://www.containerandpackaging.com/…$0.68 ($0.47 in quanity)
- 210 g. (7.4 oz.) of Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (Miralax Powder) from http://drugstore.com/ $9.62
- 5.6 g of Sodium Chloride (salt) from http://www.webstaurantstore.com/ $0.02
- 2.86 g of Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) from http://www.buyhardwaresupplies.com/ (1181 g @ $3.68) $0.01
- 0.74 g of potassium chloride from http://www.iherb.com/ (227 g @ $3.34) $0.01
- Flavor packets from http://www.homecaredelivered.com/ (Nestle Adult Flavor Packets, Variety Pack $0.16 a packet) 4 packets $0.64
So my total to make this product with ingredients bought at retail prices would be $11.34
By far the most expensive ingredient being Polyethylene Glycol 3350 @ $9.62.
I realize that Braintree Labs has marketing, packaging, and shipping cost and not to mention probably hundreds of lawyers (whom I expect I’ll hear from) to pay, But I’m also sure their manufacturing cost are well below my $11.34 figure. So this is still something on the order of 300% retail mark-up.
So in the end what can I do about being ripped-off by these greedy pharmaceuticals beside exercise my first amendment right free speech? Not much, except perhaps to inform my doctors as to what they are prescribing. But I hope that other bloggers will take these greedy companies to task by shining a flashlight of truth into their dark world whenever they find that price gouging is taking place.