Entries in March of Dimes (2)


Preterm Birth Rate in US Down to Lowest in a Decade

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Preterm births in the U.S. dropped for a fifth consecutive year in 2011, marking the lowest rate in a decade, according to the March of Dimes.

The non-profit organization's annual Premature Birth Report Card found that the preterm birth rate went down to 11.7 percent last year, down from its peak in 2006 of 12.8 percent.

"In 2010, about 64,000 fewer babies were born preterm than in 2006, which was the peak year for pre-term births.  So this is decreasing health care and social costs but most importantly, it's giving 64,000 babies a better start," March of Dimes Medical Director Dr. Ed McCabe told ABC News Radio.

The report reflects that more expectant mothers are taking better care of themselves with improved diets and visits to doctors, he said.

“A woman needs to get a pre-conception checkup before getting pregnant.  She needs to go to all of her pre-natal care appointments even when she's feeling fine,” Dr. McCabe advised.

Taking these steps to lower premature births will also result in lower health care costs.

“It's estimated that the improvement in preterm birth rate represents a potential savings of about $3 billion -- billion with a 'b' -- in health care and economic costs to society,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maternity Advocates Challenge High Cost of Preterm Birth Drug

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The March of Dimes is teaming up with leading maternity experts to lobby for KV Pharmaceuticals to reconsider its decision to boost the price of a drug that prevents premature birth from $10 a shot to $1,500 a shot.

The drug company gained exclusive rights to produce a progesterone shot used to prevent premature births in high-risk mothers from the Food and Drug Administration in February. Soon after, it announced plans to list the drug at a price 150 times higher than the cost of the non-branded version women have been using for years. The shot has been available in unregulated form from specialty compounding pharmacies for years for $10 a pop for years, but now, marketed as Makena, the drug will cost $1,500 per dose -- an estimated $30,000 in total per pregnancy.

The pricing tactic has outraged doctors, patients, and leading maternity advocates. Several organizations and public officials have sent letters to KV Pharmaceuticals urging the company to amend its business plan. The March of Dimes, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine will meet March 29 with the company to urge KV to reconsider their pricing.

"Progesterone is so cheap to make and we never had a problem with the compounding pharmacies making it. There's probably some variation between pharmacies, which nobody likes, but nobody likes $1,500 a shot either. That seems like highway robbery," says Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

KV Pharmaceuticals plans to offer financial assistance to low-come households in need of the drug, but how private health insurance companies and Medicaid will respond to this price spike remains to be seen. Many doctors fearing that access to this treatment will become severely limited or interrupted for those currently mid-treatment.

And because FDA laws prohibit compounding pharmacies from making FDA-approved products, doctors will be legally obligated to stop using the cheaper version of this drug, a representative for the company told ABC News.

Doctors fear the financial burden this new pricing will place on the healthcare system as a whole. In a March 16 article on the issue in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Joanne Armstrong, a Texas-based obstetrician, wrote:

"[N]o program providing short-term financial assistance to some patients will mitigate the harm that this new cost will cause to publicly funded programs, including Medicaid, and the women who rely on them. Nor will it mitigate the cost to employers and individuals who purchase insurance coverage and therefore directly bear all increases in health care costs."

Armstrong estimated that preventing premature births with the old, non-branded version of the drug cost approximately $41.7 million a year, saving $519 million in medical costs that would have been incurred by caring for the pre-term babies. With Makena, the price of preventing the same amount of premature birth skyrockets to $4 billion annually.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio