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Businesses Medicine The Almighty Buck

US Drugmaker Raises Price of Vitamins By More Than 800% (ft.com) 275

David Crow, reporting for the Financial Times: A US drugmaker is charging almost $300 for a bottle of prescription vitamins that can be bought online for less than $5, in the latest attempt at price gouging in the world's largest healthcare market. Avondale Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Niacor, a prescription-only version of niacin, by 809 per cent last month, taking a bottle of 100 tablets from $32.46 to $295 (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source), according to figures seen by the Financial Times. Although niacin, a type of vitamin B3, is available in over-the-counter forms for less than $5 per 100 tablets, some doctors still prefer to use the version approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat high cholesterol. Avondale, a secretive Alabama-based company, put the price of Niacor up shortly after acquiring the rights to the medicine in a so-called "buy-and-raise" deal -- a strategy made famous by Martin Shkreli, the disgraced biotech entrepreneur.
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US Drugmaker Raises Price of Vitamins By More Than 800%

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  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @09:44PM (#55787045)

    Eat Vegemite.

    • I bet vaginal yeast infections taste better.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ***BE VERY CAREFUL*** !!!

      There is Niacinamide and then there is Nicotinic Acid

      Nicotinic acid is preferred in the treatment of high cholesterol levels while niacinamide is not preferred in this treatment. This is because since niacinamide is a derivative of niacin, the cholesterol lowering properties in niacinamide are inhibited

      Nicotinic acid is also preferred in treating circulatory problems because of its effects on the blood vessels and the role it plays in lowering high cholesterol levels hence preventin

    • Eat Vegemite.

      Uah, I'd rather live with cracked skin, dementia, and diarrhea from the B3 deficiency.

    • Eat Vegemite.

      Now what do I do about the continuous vomiting?

  • by hwihyw ( 4763935 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @09:44PM (#55787049)

    "Although niacin, a type of vitamin B3, is available in over-the-counter forms for less than $5 per 100 tablets, some doctors still prefer to use the [overpriced prescription] version"

    Translation: Doctors get a kickback from prescribing a vitamin. Clueless patients fill the prescription and send it to their insurance. Everybody loses except doctors and drug companies.

    "approved by the US Food and Drug Administration"

    Translation: FDA approved vitamins that other vitamin manufacturers either cant get approval for or have to spend a fortune to get.

    So drug company gets a government monopoly on a vitamin that doctors are all too eager to prescribe to their patients for $300 a pop.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @01:23AM (#55787719)

      Clueless patients fill the prescription and send it to their insurance.

      Lets not blame the patients. You go to a licensed, extensively trained doctor because medicine and pharmaceuticals are too complex to understand unless you get paid to do it full time. Not knowing that this is a brand name of something you can get dirt cheap is not being "clueless" in any meaningful sense of the word.

      Translation: FDA approved vitamins that other vitamin manufacturers either cant get approval for or have to spend a fortune to get.

      Or maybe there's just no sane manufacturer who sees a point in spending ANY money going through FDA approval when there's absolutely no need FOR the FDA approval on it.

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )
      How works in Italy, where there is a National Health Service.
      There are four broad categories of prescriptions. Over the counter ones, you could walk in a pharmacy or in a supermarket and buy them. If you want a tax deducion you have to give the Fiscal code to be printed in the invoice.
      Full paid but with required prescription: sold only in pharmacies but you need a prescription from a medical doctor.
      Only in hospital: you have to go in a hospital to get them, and normally a nurse will inject you and watch
    • Translation: Doctors get a kickback from prescribing a vitamin. Clueless patients fill the prescription and send it to their insurance. Everybody loses except doctors and drug companies.

      This is America. It's more likely that they can't afford vitamins, and need their insurance to pay for it. The Niacin flush will help keep them warm while they break up furniture into firewood.

  • MD here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 21, 2017 @09:45PM (#55787057)

    "some doctors still prefer to use"

    If your doctor does this, just find a new doctor. There is no good reason to put up with this.

    • Ho boy (Score:5, Informative)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @01:11AM (#55787691)
      Doctor's prefer this because you don't always know what you're getting when you buy OTC vitamins. They're largely unregulated. When you buy prescription vitamins you know exactly what you're getting because they're now fully regulated by the FDA. Source: I've had close family members with cancer who've been prescribed vitamins.
    • Living in Belgium. Doctors are requered to subscribe a cheaper alternative if avalable to keep costs down. When i go to the pharmacist and there is a cheaper alternative, they will explain that a generic is available and cheaper.
      Next time I saw my doctor I told him and he excused himself that he wrote down the brand name, not the medicine's name. E.g Aspirin instead of whatever is needed.

      He so once told me that I should not take an alternative. 10 pills fir a 10 day period. After that I got something else.

      S

    • "some doctors still prefer to use"

      If your doctor does this, just find a new doctor. There is no good reason to put up with this.

      I see this as more a symptom of the medical system. Where I live doctors prescribe drugs, not brands. The pharmacist will then give you options including generic manufacturers, and marketing of drugs to patients is banned for anything other than basic over the counter medication.

      I've never asked my doctor if ${BRANDNAMEDRUG} is right for me.

    • I can imagine that there's still quite a few places in the US where the nearest doctor is a few dozen miles away, with the next nearest one double that.

      Not everyone always has a choice of doctors.

  • Statins (Score:4, Informative)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Thursday December 21, 2017 @10:00PM (#55787105)

    Artificially expensive niacin is still better than statins [wikipedia.org], another cholesterol-lowering drug that is expensive and toxic for muscles (yes, heart included, that is the funny point)

  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Thursday December 21, 2017 @10:10PM (#55787127) Homepage

    There are plenty of foods that can give you the necessary vitamins. Eat some veggies and a reasonable amount of real beef/chicken or other fatty foods and balance it out in your diet with good amounts of other vegetables and fruits so it will be taken up by your body. Drink some wine and beer while you're at it too, within reason, you can get all this food and more within 15 minutes for a family of 4 with less what you'll spend for a single person at McDonalds.

    Taking vitamin supplements is generally a waste since you're taking in more than your body needs, so most of it is simply excreted and your body needs other chemicals to even absorb them properly.

  • Yeah, but the government forces us all to subsidize the insurance industry (thanks to the Affordable Care Act), so should we be surprised that this happens? They have deep pockets thanks to all of us.

  • The evil assholes involved in this should be afraid to show themselves in public for fear of immediately being beaten to death by an angry mob.

  • Besides Trump shit like this is one of the reasons. Americans are tired. Americans once thought only poor people who made bad choices do not get free healthcare and that due to capitalism the US healthcare is superior to Europe and Canada where they come to the US due the superiority ... which was the view in the 1990s.

    Greed, corruption, automation, and insanity on the right where the GOP is very very far right and crazy has changed things.

    America is historically anti communist due to the end of World War I

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Whee! Time for some off-topic speculation!
      Some initial disclaimers:
      1) I'm going to assume Trump isn't impeached, imprisoned, has a stroke and dies or just decides its too much work and that he does indeed run again in 2020.
      2) I'm going to assume that there's no amazing superstar Democrat coming out of left field (har har pun) that I've never heard of and therefore of course can't foresee.

      With that out of the way we have on the right well.. Trump. Since we've assumed he's not impeached, we'll also assume t

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        I should add a third assumption:
        3) We don't have WW3 break out or a Yellowstone eruption or something similarly disastrous that just flat out changes everything and makes all current politics somewhat irrelevant.

  • Considering that production of stuff like that basically costs nothing, $5 for 100 pills is already a rip off.

    What is wrong with just eating healthy? You don't need vitamin supplements.

    • Considering that production of stuff like that basically costs nothing, $5 for 100 pills is already a rip off.

      What is wrong with just eating healthy? You don't need vitamin supplements.

      Reading through this thread it seems to be the case that we are talking about a vitamin being used as a specific drug to treat cholesterol, rather than general vitamin supplements, which are indeed a waste of time and money for almost everyone bar people with specific medical conditions.

      This is a genuinely educational story for once, and makes a change from puff pieces about fucking bitcoins.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      What is wrong with just eating healthy?

      - A lot of people don't know how to cook a proper meal.
      - A lot of those that do don't have the time.
      - And even then you also need the self-discipline to avoid eating crap -- which is created to intentionally be as flavorful and desirable (and even addictive) as the manufacturers can legally manage.
      - And pretty much anything you don't cook yourself from raw ingredients is going to be unhealthy in one way or another.
      - And depending on your view of things like GMO, getting healthy raw ingredients in the first

  • markets can work beautifully in many cases since it allows consumers to decide how the money is spent and can allow choices and competition.

    But, its time for some anti-gouging laws because this is getting outrageous. Don't confuse the issue of consumer driven choices on what they want to buy and the idea that we need some regulations here to stop the consumer from being abused by these kinds of tactics. An anti gouging law of course doesnt mandate the consumer what kind of vitamin to buy but would stop them

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      This is a patented drug. There is, by definition, no market or competition. Just a government-granted monopoly.

      In this case it sounds like there's an (unpatented) over-the-counter alternative that's not exactly the same drug but close enough for most people. So that's good I guess. Makes the story a little bit more palatable than the Martin Shkreli one from a couple years ago.

  • by GeLeTo ( 527660 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @03:38AM (#55787951)
    "two large randomized controlled trials of niacin, AIM-HIGH and HPS2-THRIVE, have shown that despite its effects on HDL-C, niacin does not decrease the incidence of cardiovascular events and may have significant adverse effects."
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]
  • Consumers need to take responsibility for themselves, their health, and their finances. Know what your doctor is doing, know what medicines are being prescribed. it's your health, after all, and ultimately also your wallet.

    Example: I went in to a clinic for an ultrasound of the other day. While I'm sitting there, the doc places his ultrasound gadget on some unrelated body-part. On my bill appears a charge for Fr. 60. I can either blindly accept the bill, or I can apply my brain, go back to the doctor's off

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      This may have been a decent argument in 1760 when nearly the entirety of human knowledge could be summarized in a few dozen volumes and a well-read person could be expected to have a reasonably good grasp of most fields of scientific research of the time.

      In 2017 when English Wikipedia alone has over 5 million articles. If you take that as a roughly equivalent summary as with the above, that would take thousands upon thousands of volumes.

      Basically, there's just no way a person can be expected to know everyt

  • by LaughingRadish ( 2694765 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @08:45AM (#55788597) Journal

    Let's call this sort of thing "The Shkreli Maneuver".

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Friday December 22, 2017 @12:30PM (#55789831) Homepage Journal

    I bought the powder! That stuff is super cheap in powder form and isn't that slow release namby-pamby crap, FEEL THE BURN! I'm not immune the to "Niacin Sunburn", but I rarely get it anymore. If I happen to be a little dehydrated or I drink the stuff too fast I still get one, but if my wife picks up the cup I've been drinking from and just sips it BURN!!!

    I bought this [a.co] over a year ago and I'm still using the same canister (I should take it more regularly, I've gotten lazy about getting a morning drink together).

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