U.S. marks up antivenom drug 5,000 times more

Getting treated for a scorpion sting in Mexico costs as little as $100. Just over the border in the United States, the identical treatment could be $50,000 or more, reports The Arizona Republic.

The huge gap in healthcare costs may be attributed to the use of an anti-venom drug known as Anascorp. The drug received approval by the Food and Drug Administration last August. The manufacturer, which was required to undergo a costly clinical trial in the United States and expects relatively low demand, charges $3,500 per dose, notes the Republic. That is then marked up for sale to hospitals, which then mark it up even further to make up for uninsured patients. Multiple doses can often be required for treatment, with many hospitals charging $12,000 or more per dose.

The high cost of the drug has actually weighed on the decisions of some physicians to use it.

"In an hour and a half, you can send a patient home that couldn't breathe, swallow or talk," Dr. Dan Quan, an emergency room physicin at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, told Kaiser Health News. But Quan added that "you don't want to break the back of a patient that doesn't make a whole lot of money. It could be an entire year's salary."

For more information:
- read the Arizona Republic article
- read the Kaiser Health News article