Price of lead poisoning treatment soars - KCTV5

Price of lead poisoning treatment soars

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Lead paint is a potential problem for any home built before 1978.  (AP) Lead paint is a potential problem for any home built before 1978. (AP)
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

It's another case of a skyrocketing price jump for a prescription medicine.

The increase in price for a drug used to treat lead poisoning so extreme that it's forced some hospitals to change the way they respond.

Lead paint is a potential problem for any home built before 1978. Lead poisoning would be an issue for anyone living inside the home, and to the frustration of health care providers, the cost of treating lead poisoning has gone through the roof.

There are thousands of pre-1978 homes in the metro. Many of them were painted, inside and out, with lead-based paint, something not good for adults or children.  

When there are cases of lead poisoning, the main treatment to clear it from the body is often Calcium EDTA, which come in five-packs of vials, and it's very effective.

Dr. Stephen Thornton is the medical director of the University of Kansas Poison Control Center. He says as good as the drug is, there's a problem - not in its effectiveness but rather the price.

"We're talking about what used to cost $900 is now close to $30,000 for a treatment,” Thornton said.

The drug is a product of Valeant Pharmaceuticals which acquired it after buying another company. They say their production costs are the reason for the increase. And now, in some hospitals, it has brought in on an as-needed basis and not a regular bulk pharmacy item, and that can delay treatment.

Dimercaprol is also used in cases of lead poisoning, but it much more effective when used with Calcium EDTA.

"For a small hospital, they're simply not going to be able to afford it. They're going to have to transfer those kids. And hopefully, the worst case scenario is a kid who should get the medicine, and doesn't get it, because of the cost. I don't know if that's ever happened, but that's the threat,” Thornton said.

The University of Kansas Hospital says despite the cost, they don't want their potential patients to worry. If they need Calcium EDTA, they're going to get it.  

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