March of Dimes Cut Ties with Company Whose Drug It Backed

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April 2, 2011; Source: | After backing approval of a new drug to prevent premature births, the March of Dimes is backing out of a sponsorship deal with the company that sells it. Last Friday, the nation's leading nonprofit focused on the health of pregnant women and babies said it would no longer allow St. Louis-based, KV Pharmaceutical Co. to use its name or logo in any of the drug company's promotions.

The action followed a failed effort to get the company to further reduce the price of a drug that for years the nonprofit had urged the FDA to approve. Although, KV had already reduced the price of Makena 55 percent to $690 from its original cost of $1,500, the March of Dimes of White Plains, N.Y., said neither that action nor expansion of financial support for patients went far enough.

At its current price, Makena, a drug that was approved for sale last February, is still 45 times more than what says "specialty pharmacies typically charge for a virtually identical compound 17P." In contrast, a typical full-term recommended dosage of Makena would exceed $10,000. In return for the nonprofit's support, KV and its Massachusetts partner, Hologic Inc., donated nearly $1.5 million to the March of Dimes.

Getting the boot from the March of Dimes isn't KV's only concern. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Makena's pricing. Last week, the FDA, which has not approved 17P, also said it would not take enforcement action against pharmacies that compound the drug.

Although it had been backing KV's request for FDA approval since 2006, the March of Dimes said it had no idea the drug would be priced so prohibitively when it hit the market. Senior Vice President Doug Staples said despite efforts to learn KV's plans, "They weren't telling us."—Bruce Trachtenberg