A drug prescribed in Canada to infants with a rare and dangerous form of epilepsy has jumped 2,000% in price overnight, causing an uproar amongst parents and pediatricians.
The rare affliction is West Syndrome, a catastrophic illness that induces infantile spasms. It’s diagnosed in babies with seizures that show abnormal bursts in the brain’s electrical activity.
“When he woke up he started to startle reflex,” recalled Mia Brooks of Salmon Arm, B.C., who’s son was diagnosed with West Syndrome.
“You see babies do this all the time. Their hands and legs shake. I thought it was odd because he was doing it repetitively every 10 seconds or so and he did it for a couple of minutes.”
Dr. Carter Snead from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children is disappointed in the prince increase. Infantile spasms are treated as emergencies where he works, and insists rapid treatment is essential.
“This was just dropped like a bombshell,” he said.
The drug is Synacthen Depot, a long-acting form of the drug that is injected into muscle. It’s off patent, and works 90% of the time. A vial ran for $33.05; now, it costs $680.
With the prices now this high, Alberta delisted the drug in July, meaning it’s no longer automatically paid for by the province. Health officials in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario may do the same.
The global pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt owns the rights to Synacthen Depot in Canada. They claimed a change in manufacturing is the cause for the 2,000% price hike.
“When Mallinckrodt acquired Questcor in 2014, Synacthen Depot was one of the products in the portfolio. It was losing money then and still is,” a Mallinckrodt spokesman said in an email to CBC News.
Dr. Snead went on to stay if the seizures aren’t treated quickly in children, it can evolve into other kinds of epilepsy, which are not controllable by medication.