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Bowing to pressure over the high cost of its new prenatal drug, KV Pharmaceutical Co. today slashed the price, saying the lower cost will make the drug available to more women.

But the action did not satisfy one of its chief critics, the March of Dimes, which has decided to sever its corporate partnership agreement with KV's wholly-owned subsidiary, Ther-Rx Corp.

The Bridgeton-based drug marketer announced that it would reduce its price by 55 percent to $690 per injectable dose for Makena, a branded drug that the Food and Drug Administration approved Feb. 4.

KV's new price is still more than 45 times more than the $10 to $15 price that specialty pharmacies charge for a virtually identical compound, 17P, which doctors have  prescribed in recent years to prevent pre-term birth.

KV has exclusive marketing rights to sell Makena, but on Wednesday the FDA announced that, because of concerns about the drug's affordability, it would not take enforcement action against chemical compounding pharmacies that continue to sell 17P.  

In its announcement today, KV said it would offer additional rebates to help reduce the cost of the drug for state Medicaid programs and also provide additional financial aid to patients, saying that "85 percent of patients will pay $20 or less per injection for FDA-approved Makena." The balance would be covered by insurance carriers, presuming that they agree to pay the price KV wants to charge.

"Ensuring access to an FDA-approved sterile, injectable medication, manufactured under mandatory strict quality controls, is in the best interests of all high-risk women," Greg Divis, chief executive of KV, said in a written statement.

The March of Dimes released a statement today saying that KV's price reduction and expansion of financial assistance are "steps in the right direction," but that it is nonetheless severing its current contract and professional relationships with KV's drug marketing subsidiary.

In the past decade, the March of Dimes has received about $1 million in contributions from KV's subsidiary.

In a letter to Divis, the March of Dimes president Jennifer Howse asked the company to "immediately cease and desist the use, distribution or publication of or reference to the March of Dimes name and/or logo on any materials or communications in connection with KV Pharmaceuticals, Ther-Rx and Makena."