Healthcare News & Insights

Drug shortages lead to pill scalping

Shortages of some key medications are leading some to make a living scalping prescription drugs the way some folks make cash off concert tickets. Savvy — and some would say ethically challenged — buyers are stocking up on important, but hard-to-find drugs and selling them to hospitals at prices as high as 50 times the usual cost.

The practice isn’t illegal, but it’s unpopular for obvious reasons — and potentially dangerous since with so-called “gray market” drugs it can be harder for hospitals to avoid counterfeit medications, those that haven’t been handled or stored properly or that have been stolen and resold.

Scalpers get the drugs in a variety of ways including buying backstock from doctor’s offices.

Many hospitals won’t do business with the scalpers — but then end up paying steep mark-ups anyway from more legitimate suppliers.

Some of the gray market medications with the highest mark-ups include key drugs for the treatment of cardiac and oncology patients, critical care uses and some surgical uses.

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