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High costs are causing some hospitals to stop offering two heart drugs

Two drugs that are no longer on patent and are frequently used by hospitals in emergency and intensive care situations, have seen their prices skyrocket, causing some hospitals to decrease their use.

Nitroprusside and isoproterenol, which are the drugs that some hospitals are scaling back on using, are both older off-patent drugs, which is a cause for concern. Why have the prices for these types of medications increasing?

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These heart drugs aren’t available to consumers to purchase at the pharmacy. They are mainly used by hospitals in emergency situations.

Nitroprusside’s price increased from $27.46 to $880.88

Nitroprusside saw a price increase from $27.46 in 2012 to $880.88 in 2015. The drug is administered when a patient’s blood pressure is dangerously high. Its hospital use decreased 53% from 2012 to 2015, due to the price hikes.

Nitroprusside is a vasodilator that relaxes the muscles in blood vessels to help them dilate. This process allows blood to flow more easily through veins and arteries, lowering blood pressure. The drug is used in life-threatening, as well as congestive heart failure situations.

Read more about how the FDA is trying to lower the cost of off-patent drugs.

Isoproterenol’s prices increased from $26.20 to $1,790.11

Isoproterenol saw a price increase $26.20 to $1,790.11. Isoproterenol is used to treat heart-rhythm problems during surgery. The use of isoproterenol, by hospitals, decreased by 35%.

Isoproterenol is a sympathomimetic that works by relaxing blood vessels and helping the heart pump blood more efficiently.

Following these price increases, researchers have found that the use of these two medicines has dramatically decreased at 47 hospitals.

Both isoproterenol and nitroprusside were purchased by Valeant, from Marathon Pharmaceuticals, in early 2015. According to Valeant, the company is committed to limiting price increases. But the question arises, is this too little too late, since hospitals are already dropping the use of the drug?

“The current management team is committed to ensuring the past decisions with respect to product pricing are not repeated,” said Lainie Keller, a vice president of communications at Valeant.

Some hospitals, like University of Utah Health Care, say it’s not as easy to remove the drug nitroprusside, because “it is one if you need it, you need it.” University of Utah Health Care’s usage of that drug has not gone down to zero, since it’s much more difficult to replace.

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