Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

This MS Medication Costs More Than $27 Million per Gallon

Q. My niece Cindy has multiple sclerosis. She takes one 20-milligram injection of Copaxone each day. Cost for a one-month prescription is $4,600. Fortunately, I have the wherewithal to pay for her medicine after her insurance benefits stopped paying for it for the remainder of this year.

I have done some mathematics on the cost of Copaxone. This is how it breaks down:

1000 mg ÷ 20 mg injection dosage = 50 doses per gram

$4600 ÷ 30 doses = $153.33 per dose

50 doses × $153.33 = $7,666.50 for 1 gram of medicine.

$7,666.50 × 28 (grams in an ounce) = $214,662 for 1 ounce of this medication.

$214,662 × 128 (ounces in a gallon) = $27,476,736 per gallon.

How can any medicine be this unconscionably expensive?

A. Thank you for this eye-opening price analysis. Copaxone and other similar MS drugs cost anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 a year, more than the median family income in the U.S.

Drug companies can charge whatever they want. That’s why many new cancer drugs cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for a full course of treatment. A life-saving medication to treat a rare genetic condition called Gaucher’s disease can cost over $200,000 a year and has to be taken for life.

We don’t know about you but we find such pricing unconscionable. The orphan drug act was passed by Congress in 1983. It was designed to provide incentives to drug companies to develop medications for relatively rare and serious health conditions. Drug companies are given incentives including tax breaks, special exclusivity deals and fast-track approval by the FDA. No one ever expected drug companies to gouge patients or make a killing on orphan drugs. Sadly, that has become commonplace.

We trust your niece is benefiting from this medication. She is extremely fortunate that you are able to cover the cost, since many families would find this completely out of reach financially. In Canada, this medication costs approximately one-fourth what you are paying–much less, but still very pricey.  

What do you think about such drug prices? Share your thoughts below in the comment section.

Rate this article
0- 0 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.