- Valeant Pharmaceuticals reportedly doubled the price of Seconal, a drug of choice for physician-assisted suicide, from $1,500 per dose to $3,000 per dose shortly after acquiring it in February 2015.
- First reported by KQED News, the price increase came several months before California passed an aid-in-dying law which allows terminally ill patients to acquire lethal drugs to end their lives.
- A lethal dose of Seconal (secorbarbitol) cost roughly $200 in 2009 but was increased in price several times by two other companies before Valeant bought the drug. It was originally developed in the 1930s as a sleep aid and went off patent in the 1990s.
Although Seconal is generic, other manfuacturers have stopped making it as the market shrunk. Valeant's now well-known model often looked for older, undervalued drugs to rehabilitate and sell at higher cost (think Isuprel and Nitropress). Seconal appears to have fallen into that framework.
Valeant quickly issued a statement pushing back on the story. "The price increase for the drug occurred shortly after Valeant acquired it, and months before California’s assisted suicide law passed. The suggestion that Valeant raised the price to take advantage of a law that had not yet passed, for a use for which the drug is not even indicated, defies common sense," the company said.
Since Valeant acquired it in February 2015, the company has sold about 1000 units of Seconal, and expects "less than $3 million in total sales for it in 2016."
Although the drug is indicated for insomnia, epilepsy, and pre-operative anesthesia, it is commonly used for physician-assisted suicide. Valeant specifically noted the drug is not intended for that purpose.