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Why Is Scorpion Antivenin So Affordable in Mexico, But Not in America?

Jason Volentine - ABC15
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September 13, 2017

On a warm night in August, I walked into Farmacia La Plaza in Nogales, looking for scorpion antivenin, commonly known as anti-venom.

Antivenin counteracts the potentially deadly effects of a scorpion sting. The product is made in Mexico, by a Mexican company, but sold in the United States under the name Anascorp.

The pharmacist at Farmacia La Plaza said they sometimes carry the drug but didn’t currently have it in stock.

But the Farmacia La Plaza was kind enough to share the price-tag when they do have antivenin in stock: $48.60 per vial.

Back on Uncle Sam's side of the line, one vial of Anascorp is liquid gold. American hospitals generally charge a minimum of $10,000 per vial.

... Why so much?

First, there’s expensive regulation in the United States that doesn’t exist in Mexico. RDT pays more than $1 million per year to license Anascorp with the Food and Drug Administration. Further, the FDA requires additional steps for making the U.S. version of Anascorp. He said the Mexican manufacturer refers to the U.S. version as “the long process.”

“The process approved by the FDA is about three times longer than the process approved by the Mexican heath authority,” said McNally.

That brings us to the second problem with Anascorp’s high price. Orphan drugs are generally more expensive because the cost of the regulatory process is spread over a much smaller number of patients.

In Mexico, deadly scorpions are more widespread over a larger geographical area. Stings are more common and doctors there treat nearly 250,000 patients per year.

In the United States, there are only about 10,000 scorpion stings treated at hospitals in the desert Southwest and almost all are in Arizona. Of those stings, only about 200 require doctors to administer Anascorp according to McNally.

Read the rest at ABC15

Related: Scorpions Are Ancient, But Some Species Are New to Science (The Los Angeles Times)

Related: Why These Bats Laugh in the Face of North America’s Most Venomous Scorpion (Gizmodo)

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