The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Flu shot distributors accused of price gouging in midst of shortage

by Madeleine Baran

Oct. 14, 2004 – In the midst of record flu shot shortages, some distributors have more than quadrupled their prices.

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Colorado-area hospitals have been offered the vaccine for about $100 per shot. In Florida, flu shots are selling for as much as $140 each. In comparison, the cost to the consumer is typically around $20.

Aventis Pasteur, the sole manufacturer of this year’s vaccine, charges $8.50 per shot and said it has not increased the price since its competitor, Chiron, was barred from selling its vaccine this year. Officials have blamed distributors, who transport the vaccine from the manufacturer to various clinics and hospitals, for the huge price increases.

"There are companies out there that buy up and speculate on drugs that they think are at short supply and turn around and resell them at 10 to 100 times the mark up,'' Bryant Herring, assistant pharmacy director for Wellmont Health System in Kingsport, Tennessee, told the Associated Press. "It drives up health care costs and also limits the availability for patients who may not be able to afford it or need it most."

Some states are taking action against companies believed to be engaged in price gouging. In Kansas, the attorney general is suing Florida-based Meds-Stat for allegedly trying to seek "unconscionable profits" by offering shots for $90 each. There is also a new plan announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Aventis to redistribute the remaining shots directly to clinics, hospitals and nursing homes that care for high-risk patients. Doctors hope the plan will lower prices for those health-care providers.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Madeleine Baran is a contributing journalist.

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