Politicians target insurers, drugmaker on gout drug

Gout, an arthritic disease, is on the rise. And that’s perhaps why it is the focus of lobbying efforts in New York and elsewhere.

Gout affects some 6 million adults in the country, a number that is growing as the population ages and becomes more obese. A disease seen primarily in males, its occurrence is rising in women over the age of 70.

Since March, New York City and state politicians have been asking Sens. Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand to intervene in drug coverage for the condition. Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara, Yonkers Assemblyman Mike Spano, Queens Assemblywoman Grace Meng and Brooklyn Councilmember David Greenfield have written to the U.S. senators on behalf of their older constituents. Their concern is that when the FDA pulled colchicine medications from the market last year, the action left patients with an expensive treatment classified as a Tier-3 drug. The letters, written at the urging of a lobbyist for a seniors group, ask the senators to pressure New York insurers to make colchicine medications more affordable by reclassifying them as a lower-tier drug. The insurers are United, Cigna and Wellpoint.

The gout drug, however, isn’t only on the radar of local politicians. The retail cost of Colcrys, made by URL Pharma, recently went to more than $5 a pill from pennies. As The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, a letter to URL Pharma went out from four Democrats—Sen. Herb Kohl and Reps. Henry Waxman, Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette—who want to know how the price was established, among other things.