A patently absurd case of drug regulation

Houston Area Liberty Campaign’s recent blog entry details one of the most ludicrous examples of the Food and Drug Administration’s authority run amok.

It’s about an extract of autumn crocus, specifically a chemical called colchicine. Colchicine is used as a natural remedy for gout as an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). You’d think since this has been in use since the era of Ben Franklin’s suffering from gout that anyone could make colchicine and sell it. Well, that’s apparently not good enough for the FDA.

A company called URL Pharma has now been granted the exclusive right to market and sell colchicine by the FDA, under the brand name “Colcrys.” And they do mean exclusive: what was perfectly fine to sell as generic colchicine not that long ago is now forbidden as “counterfeit Colcrys.” And these URL Pharma guys are playing hardball, suing their compeititon out of existence. One company, Qualitest Pharmaceuticals, has caved to the pressure. Thankfully, other companies are digging in their heels and fighting back against this absurdity.

The real losers here aren’t URL’s competition, nor the FDA. No, as usual in conflicts like this, it’s the innocent bystanders that get the short end of the stick. Colchicine, prior to the FDA stepping in, cost 7 cents per pill ($7 for a bottle of 100). URL Pharma’s Colcrys costs $5 per pill, or $500 for a bottle of 100. If this is not reckless, senseless, and thoughtless greed, I don’t know what is.

Even URL Pharma’s competition that are fighting the absurdity of the situation are not doing so for purely philanthropic purposes; at least one, Vision Pharma LLC, has skyrocketed the price to $1.17 per pill, low enough to look like a bargain alongside URL Pharma’s price but still outrageously high.

The final quotes from the HALC’s blog entry say a lot about the situation, perhaps the saddest thing of all:

Thankfully, consumers know just exactly what to do about URL Pharma’s new US government-approved monopoly on a “new” drug that has been in use for over a thousand years.

They’re buying it from Canada.

Until now, I’ve been extremely leery of buying from a Canadian pharmacy. If this isn’t resolved soon, and I find myself with a gout problem, that’s going to change quite quickly.

URL Pharma and Vision Pharma LLC should be damned ashamed of themselves. I wish them both a speedy and well-deserved bankruptcy. I also wish the blockheads at the FDA that made this possible a quick, public, and well-deserved firing, and an equally deserved lifetime of IRS audits.

It could easily be argued they all deserve nothing more than extremely bad cases of gout. But I’m better than wishing that upon them, however deserved it may be.