Two radiotracers commonly used in lung scans have received huge price increases—in one case, a hike of more than 2,000 percent.
Jubilant DraxImage of Montreal, Canada, has increased the prices of macroaggregated albumin (MAA) and diethylenetriamine pentaacetate (DTPA). Both are used for ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) lung scans, which are most often performed in cases of suspected pulmonary embolism.
Mark Tulchinsky, MD, of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, told DOTmed News that per-vial prices have increased this spring from $26 to $561 for MAA and from $23 to $172 for DTPA. Prices charged to other facilities will vary depending on agreements negotiated with pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Tulchinsky is professor of radiology and medicine and associate director of nuclear medicine at Hershey. He said the “outrageous” increases and consequent greater expense for V/Q scans might lead some doctors to switch to CT pulmonary angiograms, which expose patients to more radiation:
That’s what troubles me the most. What we should be working on is making V/Q more appealing.
Jubilant DraxImage, the only North American supplier of MAA, announced the price increases on its website in late February. On April 25, the company posted a video message from President Martyn Coombs explaining the increases.
Coombs said the issue was the “sustainability” of manufacturing the tracers. “We’ve been losing money on MAA for many, many years,” he said. So, he said, the company faced the choice of either increasing the price or ceasing production. It decided, he said, on a “one-off, market-wide price adjustment” that would allow it to continue making MAA for the foreseeable future.
“We’re going to invest in the process to make sure that we’ve got a reliable, robust process and we don’t have the same shortage situations we had before,” Coombs said. The company announced a shortage of MAA last September.
Dr. Tulchinsky wasn’t convinced. “They’re the only ones making the drug,” he said. “So, essentially, whatever price they want to decide to charge, that is what one is stuck with. It at least appears as price gouging.”
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