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Price battle over schizophrenia drug.

Price battle over schizophrenia drug

A drug long available in Europe and approved for U.S. use last February may substantially help many schizophrenics who fail to respond to other drugs (SN:5/23/87, p.324). But psychiatrists from around the United States claim the medication is financially out of reach for many of the patients who need it most, particularly people with chronic schizophrenia who have little money or health insurance.

The drug, known as clozapine, is marketed by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corp. in East Hanover, N.J. Because about 1 percent of clozapine patients experience a potentially fatal drop in white blood cells, anyone taking the drug must participate in a weekly blood-monitoring program run by a private laboratory chosen by Sandoz. The total yearly cost is nearly $9,000 per patient, mostly for the monitoring program.

Many psychiatrists contend that private clinicians and state and Veterans Administration hospitals could do the blood monitoring just as well and at less expense. Some states, including Oregon, say they may file antitrust suits against Sandoz.

Gilbert Honigfeld of Sandoz argues that without the national testing program, careless monitoring -- and thus some clozapine-induced deaths -- appear likely. Even a few deaths will result in a U.S. ban on clozapine, he says. In the long run, the current program saves money by keeping patients out of hospitals and nursing homes, Honigfeld maintains.
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Title Annotation:clozapine
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:May 26, 1990
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