|October 18, 2004
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TAMPA - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson joined Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist today to announce that the Department will join the State of Florida in a case involving excessive markups of flu vaccine. Thompson announced that his agency will file a brief supporting the lawsuit filed by Crist against the South Florida company Meds-Stat for offering flu vaccines at 900-1,000% markups. Approximately half of the country’s usual number of flu vaccinations is unavailable this year due to contamination of a major supplier’s inventory.
"We thank Secretary Thompson and the Department of Health and Human Services for their support as well as their leadership on this issue," said Crist. "Charging $900 for vials of vaccine that normally sell for $65-$85 is nothing short of raw exploitation. We must ensure that those who need it the most have access to the vaccine at prices they can afford."
Last week Thompson urged the states to aggressively investigate and prosecute those engaging in price gouging involving the flu vaccine. Kansas and Florida are the first two states to file suit.
"We are eager to be your partners in fighting price gouging," said Thompson. "It will take the good faith and cooperation of all Americans – the public, doctors, nurses and public health professionals – to ensure that the flu vaccine goes to those who truly need it most this flu season."
The priority groups for receiving vaccine are:
- all children aged 6-23 months,
- adults aged 65 years and older,
- persons aged 2-64 with underlying chronic medical conditions,
- all women who will be pregnant during influenza season,
- residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities,
- children 6 months-18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy,
- health care workers with direct patient care, and
- out-of-home care givers and household contacts of children 6 months old and older.
A recent survey of 2,800 hospital pharmacy directors by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, including 140 from Florida, reveals that 55% of respondents report they have been contacted by opportunistic vendors offering to sell flu vaccine at highly inflated prices. Of these respondents, including 40 from Florida, more than 80% report being offered the vaccine at more than four times the original market value, and nearly 20% have been offered the vaccine at $800 or more per 10-dose vial. Equally troubling is the fact that 84% of respondents reported that they do not plan to purchase additional vaccine on the secondary market at these inflated prices, meaning less vaccine will be available to patients who need it.
Crist asked doctors and hospitals to contact the Attorney General’s Office to report any solicitations for flu vaccine at unconscionable prices. The number is 1-800-646-0444.