Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Flu Serum Available For a Price.

Byline: Jackie Jadrnak Journal Staff Writer

Vendors Reportedly Profit From Shortage

Psssst! Hey, buddy. Wanna buy some flu vaccine?

OK, maybe flu vaccine sales haven't hit street corners yet, but some hospital pharmacists and others report repeated offers to sell them the vaccine at high prices while they await delayed deliveries of long-standing orders.

"We're being victimized," said Jerry Ritchie, director of pharmacy for St. Joseph Healthcare in Albuquerque.

Difficulties in growing one strain in this year's flu vaccine delayed deliveries this year, with the bulk of the vaccine just now starting to show up. Usually, vaccine is delivered by sometime in September.

Ritchie said St. Joseph Healthcare ordered influenza vaccine from its supplier at about $20 per vial, which contains 10 doses. Meanwhile, his pharmacy was bombarded this fall by offers from other vendors to sell the vaccine for $80 to $145 per vial, he said.

The practice is not illegal, according to Steve Sheaffer, president-elect of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, based in Bethesda, Md.

But the sales offers do reflect a "gray market" that has troubled the society in recent years. It has had ongoing discussions with the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about possible controls, he said.

He estimated about 10 small distributors are involved. …

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