Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A real health care crisis - anti-venoms are leaving the market

I am thankful to live in the Northeastern USA, where poisonous animals are rare and pretty much restricted to "pets" bought by adventurous New Englanders. But I was shocked to learn just how many effective anti-venoms are going off the market because of a combination of unprofitability and FDA over-regulation.

Antivenom shortages are a surprisingly common occurrence. The entire state of Arizona ran out of antivenom for scorpion stings after Marilyn Bloom, an envenomation specialist at Arizona State University, retired in 1999. Bloom had been single-handedly making all the scorpion antivenom for state hospitals. Recently, Merck & Co, the only FDA-licensed producer of black widow antivenom, has cut back distribution because of a production shortage of the drug. In a 2007 report, the World Health Organization listed worldwide envenomations as a "neglected public health issue."

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