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U.S. Senator Calls for CMS Probe of 12,400% Drug Price Hike

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 8, 2011

A U.S. Senator is accusing URL Pharma Inc. of price gouging after the pharmaceutical company raised the price of its exclusive gout treatment drug from 4 cents per pill to $5 per pill, an increase of 12,400%.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has asked Philadelphia-based URL Pharma to reconsider it price hike for the drug colchicine, sold under the brand name Colcrys. Brown has also asked Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Donald Berwick, MD, to investigate the impact of the price hike on the 3 million Americans – many of them senior citizens – who use colchicine to treat their gout, and the potential financial hit for Medicare. 

Brown said in a media release that 21 drug companies – including URL Pharma – were manufacturing oral colchicines for gout and selling it for as little as four cents per pill. However, after URL Pharma received Food and Drug Administration approval for exclusive rights to produce and sell colchicine under the Colcrys brand, "the price spiked to $5 a pill."

According to Brown, physicians at the American College of Rheumatology report that the standard dosage for a person with gout is two colchicines tablets per day when a patient is not suffering a gout attack. The dosage may increase to treat flare-ups. With three million gout sufferers averaging two pills each day Brown said URL Pharma would sell nearly $11 billion worth of the medication in one year.

In a statement issued Tuesday, URL Pharma disputed Brown’s projected earnings for Colcrys, saying the senator's figures are " more than 20 times larger than our most optimistic sales projections for this year."

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