Price for clot-busting stroke drug skyrockets

The price of a clot-busting drug that has proven especially useful in treating victims of ischemic strokes has more than doubled in the past decade, far surpassing any Medicare/Medicaid payments to hospitals that use the drug.

The cost of alteplase has increased 111 percent over the past decade. However, payments to hospitals for the drug have gone up by only 8 percent, Cardiovascular Business reported. The drug is especially useful in reversing the symptoms of recent ischemic stroke in patients. The medication can often extensively reverse the effects of a stroke if administered in the first few hours of such an event.

In 2005, one milligram of the drug cost hospitals $30.50. By 2014, the price had risen to $64.30 per milligram. The drug is usually sold in 100 milligram packages, so a single unit would cost about $6,400.

The increase reflects an ongoing rise of prices for most pharmaceuticals, although given this is a clinical rather than an outpatient or over-the-counter consumer drug, providers are bearing most of the cost increase.

Alteplase is often administered in hospital emergency departments, where drug shortages have increased more than four-fold since 2008. The cost and availability of some drugs have forced hospitals to occasionally ration supplies, leading to moral quandaries regarding which patients should receive dosages.

"Stroke healthcare professionals really need to be aware of the costs of the therapies they're providing," said Dawn Kleindorfer, M.D., the study's  lead researcher and professor in the neurology and rehabilitation department at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, in a statement. "When the infrastructure is not adequately reimbursing, it should be a call to action for healthcare professionals to lobby the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to better adjust for these higher-cost medications so we can take good care of our patients."

To learn more:
- read the Cardiovascular Business article 
- check out the statement