Pregnancies aren't cheap, and a recently FDA-approved drug for pregnant women could make the costs even worse. Over the last several decades, 17 hydroxyprogesterone caproate has been one of the greatest advances in obstetrics. Although it wasn't FDA-approved, studies show it decreases the risk of pre-term labor by one third.
"We do use it regularly with the knowledge it's not FDA-approved. Pretty much every physician does that in some way. You have to or you don't use half of your drugs," said obstetrician Dr. Mike Lamar.
Normally the drug costs $20 or less per injection, but within the last couple weeks, the FDA approved one specific manufacturer's version of the drug, called Makena. Makena's makers then raised the price -- by 7,000%.
"When it came out and said that the drug was gonna be $1500 I was absolutely shocked!" said pharmacist Ginger Pino.
Dr. Lamar says a woman could need up to 20 doses in a pregnancy. That's $30,000 at the higher rate.
"This is an effective product, but the question now we all have is, 'Are we gonna buy it from this company or are we gonna buy it from local pharmacies?' he said.
Normally, an FDA approval on a drug means compounding pharmacies, like Harvest Drug, can no longer copycat the drug. Makena was also only going to be available at select pharmacies, but for the first time ever, the FDA said this week that pharmacies *can compound a generic version of makena. Pino says the FDA likely realized the price was outrageous and the drug needed to be readily available.
"When a lady needs a drug such as 17 hydroxyprogesterone caproate, they need it now. They don't have the luxury of waiting for the drug," she said.
Soon after the FDA's recent announcement, the makers of Makena dropped the price to $650 -- still hundreds more than it used to be. While Dr. Lamar will prescribe the FDA to patients who want it, he thinks most will take the cheaper option.
"I'm comfortable using a compounded, generic product and I think most physicians will come down on that side of the argument," he said.
While surprised by Makena's cost, both Lamar and Pino say they are pleased the drug got FDA approval because they've known it works all along, and more pregnant women will know about it now.