Ok, I know that this article is dated August 2006, but that is still fairly recent. What do you folks think? The 1,800-Fold Price HikeA maker of the pill sticks it to family-planning clinics.By Amanda Schaffer
Posted Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006, at 1:12 PM ET
No one much noticed, but thousands of family-planning clinics across the country went into a tailspin last month. They were reacting to a drastic price increase by Ortho-McNeil, a major supplier of birth-control pills and maker of the popular contraceptive patch. The company used to charge publicly funded clinics as little as a penny a pack for the pills. Then, as of July 1, the price of some pills jumped to more than $18 a pack. Ortho's move was apparently legal under federal pricing rules. But it's anybody's guess as to why the company chose to do this now, without giving the clinics any real notice.
As a result of the price hike, publicly funded clinics from Maine to New Mexico are running short on popular contraception products, scrambling to find reasonably priced generics, and scaling back on the choices they offer low-income women. Chronically underfunded, the clinics are in no shape to absorb this blow, especially now. The number of women in need of subsidized contraception is rising, while new and expensive advances in screening and prevention, like the HPV vaccine, are coming on line. Yet the national press has ignored the story of the Ortho price hike, which the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia broke in late July.
Ortho-McNeil has historically offered birth control to public clinics at a far lower price than it retails to women with private insurance, allowing the clinics to offer free or low-cost pills to many patients. The company's low prices—pennies for a month's worth of birth-control pills, $10 to $12 for the popular one-month contraceptive patch Ortho Evra—came through the federal program 340B. Using a complex formula, 340B sets upper limits on what companies can charge to clinics that receive funding from Title X, the federal family-planning initiative. There are about 4,500 Title X clinics serving around 5 million patients. The current funding is $283 million a year—an amount that's supposed to cover not only birth control but also treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, screening for breast and cervical cancer, pregnancy tests, and counseling. (Title X funds may not be used for abortions.
Ok, Just my humble opinion here, I could afford the price hike, but some poor woman without insurance may not. Moment of clarity: Even with the price hike, it is still cheaper than an abortion or gestating a pregnancy then giving birth.