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Price Gouging Spikes Drug Costs Up to 4500%, Purchasing Group Says

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 17, 2011

In a recent two-month period, he said, Premier reviewed 1,750 sales offers from grey market vendors that came through e-mails and fliers offering scarce drugs. "Pediatric pharmacist members have let us know that infants and children have been at risk because of shortages in nutritional and electrolyte" compounds.

Premier found
  • A 3,170% markup for leucovorin, a drug to help cancer patients retain bone marrow
  • A 3,161% markup for, propofol, a sedation drug
  • A 2,979% markup for a medicine to dilate veins and prevent brain or heart spasms and
  • A 2,642% markup for drugs to prevent damage during a heart attack.

Nearly half of the drugs reviewed were marked up more than 1,000%.

"It's not unheard of for a drug to be bought and sold four or five times in the same day," he said.

Alkire said the situation "begs several questions:

"Where and how (is the grey market) getting medicines no one else can have access to (and) how can the integrity of these drugs be ascertained if it's best practice or even acceptable to purchase drugs from these sources." 

When these drugs are bought and sold across state lines, moved in whole or partial lots, repackaged and relabeled, resulting in a complex web of transactions involving dozens of trading partners, (it makes) it almost impossible to determine the supply source or authenticity."

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