$1,000 for sugar water and salt? Big pharma inflates bills…and consumers pay

Walletpop, Nov. 8, 2010

If you’ve experienced sticker shock at the pharmacy and wondered why drug prices are always rising, even for generics, consider the value of salt. Baxter International, which sells drugs to health care providers and pharmacies, billed Medicaid $928 for $1.71 worth of saline solution — a 54,000% markup — for more than 10 years before a Louisiana state lawsuit caught the deception last month.

Baxter also charged the same amount for sugar water — dextrose solution, an intravenous medication used to treat hypoglycemia. Cost to the company was just $2.25 wholesale, and so, a 41,000% markup.

…an independent report last month showed First DataBank conspired with McKesson Corp., a drug distributor, to raise, fix, and maintain the reported prices of more than 400 brand name drugs. The collusion, which led to a $15 million settlement with the state of Connecticut, raised costs for widely used prescription drugs such as Lipitor, Allegra, Asmacort, Celebrex, Flonase, Neurontin, Nexium, Prevacid and Valium.

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