Recently, KV Pharmaceutical of suburban St.Louis won government approval to exclusively sell a pregnancy drug, known as Makena. Makena is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone commonly given to women who are at risk of preterm births. The March of Dimes and many obstetricians initially supported the approval because they thought it would mean that the quality would be more consistent and it would be easier to get. Plus, the drug has only been about $10 to $20 per injection, so it comes relatively cheap. Starting this week, they’ll be surprise to see two more zeros attached to the price tag of each injection – the price of Makena shoots up to $1,500 a dose. KV Pharmaceutical is taking nice advantage of their exclusive ownership of the drug.
I always enjoy the justification the spokespersons give in these situations. KV Pharmaceutical chief executive Gregory J. Divis Jr states, “The cost is justified to avoid the mental and physical disabilities that can come with very premature births.” Hey Gregory, are you saying you were losing money when you only charged 1% of the cost now?
Obviously much of the burden will fall on health insurance companies, which will have to raise premiums or other costs to their other customers. Aetna figures the new federal endorsement is likely to cost an estimated $30 million more annually. Essentially, we’re all paying KV Pharmaceutical. But onto the health topic at hand here…
Progesterone is that important hormone that precedes and promotes gestation (pregnancy). Many women suffer miscarriages, especially in their first trimester, due to low progesterone levels. As mentioned earlier, low progesterone levels can also responsible for preterm births. Low progesterone levels can also be the reason a woman cannot conceive.
Reports may state there are “no good alternatives”, but actually that is far from the truth. For starters, natural forms of ANY hormone are always better than any synthetic form. Bioidentical hormones are more compatible with human physiology. But more important is to figure out why a woman isn’t making her own progesterone, or perhaps is losing it faster than she can make it.
Progesterone is initially made from cholesterol, which means essentially fatty-acids are necessary for its production. That means omega 3 fats from fish and flax oils, and omega 6 fats from vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are very important. The omega 9 fat, olive oil, is beneficial too, as are some forms of arachiodonic acid, from grass-fed meats, egg yolks, dairy fats (butter), and avocadoes. Vitamin E is also very important in progesterone production as well as estrogens too.
Often a woman is making the progesterone but she is losing it faster than she can make it. The most common reason for this is that she is converting the progesterone to cortisol, the body’s major stress hormone. If she is under more stress than she can handle, cortisol levels will increase and it needs to be made from somewhere – and progesterone is readily available (initially) in high amounts to make more stress hormone.
Physical stress from an old or present injury, pain, or lack of proper exercise can increase cortisol levels. Exercising too anaerobically will increase cortisol levels very quickly, and start to deplete progesterone levels.
Nutritional and chemical stress from a poor diet often increases cortisol too. Carbohydrate intolerance and insulin problems, caused from eating too many refined sugars and processed foods, will increase cortisol levels and deplete progesterone. Hydrogenated fats will block important steps needed in cholesterol synthesis and therefore progesterone synthesis. Ultimately a woman may be having a difficult time even getting pregnant, or if she does, she is at increased risk of losing the baby or not carrying to full-term, if cortisol continues to use up the progesterone.
And of course emotional stress can increase cortisol and deplete progesterone. Resolving that stress, whether at home or at work, is important for a healthy pregnancy. Aerobic exercise, meditation, prayer, and listening to classical music will increase your brain’s alpha waves and therefore decrease cortisol.
So let KV get away with robbery. Eating healthy, proper exercise, and living a balanced life will keep expecting moms, and their child, well so there is less need for medical intervention. Yes, some people do need and benefit from progesterone, but many of them can choose to live healthier lifestyles resulting in a less costly, more successful and healthier pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
More stillbirths or premature births will occur if KV does not shift their price point on the drug. This gouging will lead to increased death, that will trigger lawsuits that will put KV out of business in a year or two. Hopefully KV will act before the repercussions are irreversible.
Taylor Yvonne says
I’m a healthy, fit 25yr old female w/ no previous medical history or complications. In March I delivered my stillborn baby girl at just 24wks without any answers as to why me. I haven’t been copping very well and I’d been having extremely heightened anxiety with chest pains. My Doctor, one of the only natural family planning doctors in my city, decided to put me on progesterone as he said some pregnancies can cause a loss of certain hormones. I have insurance & Medicaid so I’m not sure about pricing, I didn’t pay for it. I still didn’t quite understand and I stopped taking them after a few weeks as I was still unsure of their purpose.
Countless hours of thinking had led me to believe that my relationship was the reason I lost my pregnancy- from stress. It’s easier said than done but I now understand why being stress free is so important. It doesn’t just affect a mentality, it’s a physical burden.
I have started eating low carb, low sugar recently. Your article has helped me understand a lot about my difficult situation and about how my current diet is a positive change I didn’t know I’d benefit from.
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
I’m glad to hear my article helped you and also very sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. Take care.