Monday, October 18, 2004
Attorney General Abbott Warns Suppliers Of Flu Vaccine Against Unconscionable PricingAUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today sent a strong warning to all suppliers of the scarce flu vaccine that he will sue anyone found to be charging “unconscionable” prices for the vaccine.
“We all know that flu vaccine is in short supply, and access for people who are vulnerable – like the chronically ill, children, the elderly and even health caregivers – is critical to avoid serious illness or even death,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Incredibly, we now have reports that some suppliers are taking advantage of this health emergency to make a quick dollar. That is intolerable.”
In one instance, a 10-dose vial went from about $80 to $950 in a matter of days. The national average vaccination cost to consumers is $15.
“I urge the companies who make and distribute the vaccine and those who administer it to patients to be very cognizant of the consequences of these unlawful practices.”
Unexpected problems in the manufacturing process in England led to the critical shortage now faced in the United States. Attorney General Abbott emphasized that sudden and significant price hikes in the expected cost of administering the vaccination will be considered possible violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“When demand is high, and supply is short, prices will normally rise. However, a sudden, dramatic spike in prices for a consumer necessity like the vaccine as flu season approaches, is unconscionable,” said Attorney General Abbott.
Those who engage in unethical pricing schemes to make short-term profits from a potential health emergency may face civil penalties of up to $20,000 per occurrence. Charging exorbitant prices that exceed the range of affordability for the elderly could also subject suppliers to an additional $250,000 penalty under the law.
Any person who believes he or she has been charged excessively for a flu vaccination recently should contact the Attorney General’s office toll-free at 800/252-8011, or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov
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