Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Little Help Please?

Vaccinations are an important tool for keeping people healthy. Like many family physicians, I give vaccines to my patients. Unfortunately, also like many other family physicians, giving vaccines is often not cost-effective and in some cases, a money-losing endeavor.

Part of the problem is that some vaccines cannot be purchased as a single dose. That leads physicians to decide if they should buy 10 doses of one vaccine just to immunize one child, and hope that they can use up the rest before they expire. This becomes a problem when a vaccine's wholesale costs run over $80 per dose, such as for Prevnar.

This is an e-mail I got from Dr. Jean Antonucci to her physician friends asking for some help. She has been trying to buy a single dose of Prevnar to finish immunizing one of her patients. But Wyeth, the manufacturer, only sells Prevnar in boxes of 10 doses:
So help me out here. I got a call from Wyeth — from a David Ross. Wyeth sells single dose Prevnar in other countries where "there is low demand". They are not very open to doing that here.

I told this man, "Look, this is a win-win. You want to sell Prevnar, I want to buy it." He goes on and on about how he cannot believe practices would need so few doses over a few years. So I say, OK, look, help me out here! I tell him about primary care. I point out that I ANSWERED the phone!! He repeatedly tries to deflect me — "This is about reimbursement". Well, no it isn't. Blue Cross pays for the vaccine just fine. It does not pay for 9 doses sitting in the fridge rotting.

SO anyway I say, here is an alternative. Sell it to Cardinal Health. THEY supply my drugstore. The drugstore will buy 10 doses from you and lots of us can use them.

He then says, well, he would have to know that there was more than one doctor in the USA who had need for small amounts of Prevnar. So aha! I say, oh really?? How many do you need to hear from? I have 700 friends.

"Uh uh, I dunno."

So PLEASE call up David Ross (484-865-6057) and plead the case to sell Prevnar EITHER to drugstores OR in single dose units to physicians. PLEASE?

Love, Jean

I called Mr. Ross and left a voice message saying I am a family doctor who would also like to be able to buy Prevnar in a single dose. If anyone else out there is in a similar situation, you might want to give him a call, too.

If nothing else, it may help one child get their Prevnar. And if he gets a lot of calls, maybe a lot of children across America will finally be able to get their vaccines from their local primary care doctor.