Mercy's Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYN Discusses New Drug Treatment For Pre-Term Birth On WBAL-TV11's "Woman's Doctor"

May 23, 2011
The Bunting Center at Mercy Baltimore

Mercy's Dr. Robert Atlas, OB/GYNN

The cost of a drug that has helped some women prevent preterm labor is skyrocketing now that it's been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Lakiah Troxler is seven and a half months pregnant. Her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 23 weeks. In her second, she delivered her daughter at 32 weeks.

She said this third time has been different.

"My second pregnancy, I had to be on complete bed rest. But this time I'm not because I had a cerclage, and I get a shot called 17p," Troxler said.

Cerclage is when doctors stitch the cervix closed, and 17p is a form of progesterone shot that's been compounded (mixed together) in some pharmacies and used since 2004.

The drug has since been FDA approved and is called Makena.

"Anything that's FDA approved should have a little more stringent regulations on the medication so that every time you get the medication, it should be the exact same," said Dr. Robert Atlas, Chair of Obstetrics at Mercy Medical Center.

The problem is Makena's new price. The drug went from around $20 an injection when it was compounded at pharmacies to $1,500 under Makena's name.

According to Dr. Atlas, this is a significant problem when it comes to access to care.

"It's a weekly injection that we recommend starting at 16 weeks to 36 weeks of gestation. With 20 injections, that's $30,000," he said.

Troxler said she knows the shot has been important in her latest pregnancy because she's not on bed rest and there's been no preterm labor.

KV Pharmaceuticals, the exclusive maker of Makena, said any woman who needs the drug will get it, and they do have a patient assistance program. But physicians are uncertain about whether insurance companies will cover it.

It's also unclear whether some doctors will still have the drug compounded for their patients. Some reports said that KV has threatened to sue any compounding pharmacies that do so.


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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