The FDA Makes Ancient Remedies Unaffordable

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This article, written by senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute Mark Thornton, was originally published by Mises on Oct. 24.

I recently experienced severe pain in my feet, particularly in the big toes. In my imagination it felt like my feet had been run over by a truck and that several of my toes had been broken. But I knew that was not the case, and that the pain came on slowly at first, and then spread to other parts of my feet until I could barely walk.

My first approach was to take some ibuprofen to relieve the pain and swelling. When this did not resolve the matter, I thought perhaps a new pair of soft shoes might work. That idea also failed, and with a little internet research I realized I had a classic case of the gout. I was soon off to see my doctor to determine what the problem was and to get it solved with the powers of modern medicine.

The doctor confirmed that I had the gout. I was not pleased to find out, that in my case, the gout was probably brought on by another drug that I had been taking daily, against my better judgment. However, I was pleased to learn that I would no longer have to take it, that as part of my treatment I was being prescribed an ancient and natural drug, and that I would only have to take this drug “as needed.”

I was off to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy when a thought came to mind: if this drug was as natural and ancient as advised by my doctor, why did I need a prescription in the first place? Upon inspection the prescription was for Colcrys, the brand name of the drug colchicine. Furthermore, when I picked up my prescription the price was much higher than I anticipated given that it was a natural drug. When questioned, the pharmacy technician replied that the actual price was much higher and that my insurance paid for more than three-quarters of the bill. The cash price (without insurance) was $198.99 which is $6.63 per pill if taken daily, or nearly $20 per dose if used to treat flare-ups.

An extremely high price for an ancient natural drug? I knew I had a new case to solve and that the solution was probably the same old answer.

After conducting some research on Wikipedia, I learned the following: Colchicine can be used to treat gout, Behcet’s disease, pericarditis, and the Mediterranean fever. It has been in use as a medicine for over 3,000 years. After serving as ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin brought colchicum plants back to America in order to treat his own gout. Modern science has further refined the drug for better medicinal use.

Colcrys has been used to treat gout for a very long time, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved Colcrys specifically for the treatment of gout prior to 2009. Alternative drugs, such as Allopurinal, are also used to treat gout and related ailments. Until recently, you could treat your own gout using one of these medicines for pennies a day.

In the summer of 2009, the Food and Drug Administration approved Colcrys as a treatment for gout flare-ups and the Mediterranean fever. The FDA gave pharmaceutical company URL Pharma an exclusive marketing agreement for selling Colcrys in exchange for completing studies on Colcrys and paying the FDA a $45 million application fee.

This deal effectively created a patented drug with no generic alternative. Therefore it gave the company a monopoly for the duration of the agreement. URL Pharma immediately raised the price from less than a dime to nearly $5 dollars per pill. Comprehensive medical insurance does substantially reduce the price to consumers, but it does not reduce the cost. Insurance only spreads the cost-burden across policy holders.

At the same time, doctors are encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to employ more expensive and profitable treatments. As a result the overall cost burden increases. Evidence suggests that doctors are prescribing Colcrys in large volumes to treat gout flare-ups and as a long-term preventative measure.

Once again government has taken something that was both cheap and beneficial and turned it into a monopoly that hurts the general public and drives up the cost of medical care to the benefit of Big Pharma.

Personal Liberty

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

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  • Shorty Stuff

    Supposedly they were given a 3 year exclusivity agreement back in 2009, so why aren’t generics available now, 4 years later? Kind of dates this article too, doesn’t it?

  • Scarlet Charlotte

    And I’ll bet anything that URL Pharma added all kind of other unnecessary toxic substances in the pills that will cause another illness further down the road that will necessitate another pharmaceutical pill…after all, the author said he got gout from another pill he was taking daily…It’s all a big conspiracy with Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Hospitals, etc..all meant to get us sick & keep us that way!

  • lokiswife

    The FDA gets more money to add to its bloated budget, URL Pharma gets a sweetheart deal, and medical insurance, Medicare and colchicine users get shafted again, thanks to the FAULTY DRUG ADMINISTRATION.

    • http://www.thefreedomtrainusa.com/ FreedomTrainUSA

      FATAL DRUG ADMINSTRATION

  • Doug Nusbaum

    Or, if you had a true entrepreneurial spirit you could investigate and you could purchase it online for less than $.70 per tablet From our evil socialist neighbours up north. Of course if you did not eat crap for food, were not obese, exercised often, and refrained from excess alcohol, then there probably would not be a problem. There is a reason that it is known as “the rich mans disease” Skinny people who can not afford meat seldom get gout.

    I am not blaming the victim here am I :-)

    Hard to tell from available photos, but I am sure that Mr. Thorntons BMI is over 25, and probably near 30 — you know the level of Obesity. Probably also has high BP. You can have all the brains in the world, but nature can not be fooled.

    And if Mr. thornton had an abundance of brains then he could do research and find alternative treatments / drugs instead of being obedient to authority and doing whatever “authority” tells him to do. Start with DrWeil.com

    • Karma Is ALL

      Or Dr. Mercola

  • Chris

    Colchicine is toxic.

    • Dr. Doofus

      Many times, a toxin is what is needed to heal!

    • http://www.thefreedomtrainusa.com/ FreedomTrainUSA

      The key to all these things is Natural….So many supplements that are on the shelves of grovery and drug stores are synthetic….They do not good with all the chemicals in them…they are not better then Big Pharma’s Posions…You must have ALL NATRUAL to be effective….

  • Chris

    My favorite alternative medicine doctor says for every toxic plant out there (which he would never recommend), there is always a safer one to get the job done.

  • Tom

    Look up olive leaf extract and gout.

  • IBCAMN

    and now the people are starting to wake up,people need to do this research on these companies and get the news out.my mom use to tell me about the big companies doing things like this and people called her crazy!people call me stupid for believing her..now you need to wake up and believe someone!

  • STMA

    $45 million “application fee”? It would be interesting to follow the money- although I’ll bet I know where it ends up. One thought- if the “fee” would reduce the amount of money the FDA needs to operate, it won’t show up in their budget anywhere or it would reduce the appropriation for the FDA by congress on the next round. So, where does it go??? (-: Nah, they surely wouldn’t do that…

  • Barakolips

    Here is a good example of FDA corruption— I just cured a bad case of squamous cell carcinoma with a product called black salve or cansema. It is a modern form of an old skin cancer treatment method. The FDA not only denied approval of this cancer cure, they drove its inventor out of the US and even imprisoned him. If you are interested in hearing more about this , go to meditopia.org for this story or go to herbhealers.com or alphaomega labs.com to order black salve. It is cheap and it WORKS!!! I am not a salesman, just someone trying to pass on something that I know from experience , works as a cancer cure!

  • http://www.thefreedomtrainusa.com/ FreedomTrainUSA

    The FDA is the Rubber Stamp for Big Pharma…..Big Pharma wants to DESTROY ALL SUPPLEMENTS….so that they can have control of them…