“The scandal isn't what's illegal, the scandal is what's legal”
This quote, attributed to Michael Kinsley, is applicable to a very disturbing trend that is having an increasing impact on antimicrobial availability: the acquisition of exclusive marketing rights (usually by small private firms) to inexpensive generic drugs in order to jack up their prices astronomically. The antimicrobials pyrimethamine, albendazole, cycloserine, flucytosine, and doxycycline have all experienced price increases of up to 5000%, and there have been several recent posts on the Emerging Infections Network about how this is limiting availability of these agents for those who desperately need them.
I hope this NY Times story about the pyrimethamine saga draws more attention to this trend, and leads to some regulatory reforms to prevent this obvious price gouging. Because you-guessed-it, there is nothing illegal about this under U.S. law.
Fortunately, because it engenders bad press when people suffer and/or die due to unavailability of an essential drug, some of these “pharmaceutical companies”* will immediately send out the drug at a reduced price (or even without charge) if contacted by the treating physician. Such saints, these folks are….
*I put that term in quotes, because the company that owns marketing rights to pyrimethamine is founded and run by a hedge fund manager