Trevor Foltz was six months old last fall, fresh off a visit to Disney World in Orlando, when the spasms first began.
Healthy until that point in his life, he began thrusting backward in his car seat, repeatedly and forcefully, as he rode with his parents north toward home in Rhode Island. “I thought it was temper tantrums,” says his mother, Danielle. The next day, at home, Trevor was hit with a series of 40 convulsions and rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with infantile spasms, a rare form of epilepsy. Treatment would cost $1,600 per vial of steroid drug H.P. Acthar Gel, and Trevor would need three of them.
As if the idea of a $4,800 tab wasn’t bad enough, when the Foltzes submitted their claim, they found out the company that made the drug, Questcor Pharmaceuticals, had just recently jacked up the price—to $23,000 per vial, or $69,000 for a three-vial treatment—and the insurance company wasn’t going to pay. And all the while, unbeknownst to anyone at that time, an alternative, for $15, existed.
On Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee will open hearings in Congress on dramatic price hikes for drugs used to treat children, with a focus on companies such as Questcor and Ovation Pharmaceuticals, which in 2006 bought rights to a drug that treats heart problems in premature infants, and increased the price 1,800 percent to $1,875 per three-vial treatment.