September 7, 2012
Questions Arise Over Hefty Fee For Scorpion Sting Treatment
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A woman in Arizona was recently charged a hefty fee after treatment for a sting from a scorpion, adding scrutiny to the debate on the cost of health care in the U.S.
In particular, Marcie Edmonds stated that she received a medical bill for over $83,000 from the Chandler Regional Medical Center. According to the Huffington Post, the bill included two doses of anti-venom that cost almost $40,000 for each dose. Humana, Edmonds´ insurance company, covered $57,509 of the bill. The hospital requested that Edmonds cover the remaining balance of $25,537. She was also given another bill of $1,302 for the hospital´s emergency room doctor.
Edmonds, a 52-year-old counselor, was stung in June in her garage when she was opening a box of air conditioner filters. She felt a sharp sting that gradually became worse, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, blurry vision, tense muscles, and tightness in the throat. She was later sent to the emergency room of Chandler Regional Medical Center where a doctor told her about Anascorp, a Mexican anti-venom, but did not mention the cost for the treatment. The venom was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last summer and is sold by Rare Disease Therapeutics.
The Arizona Republic reported that the hospital was planning to adjust the bill and reviewing the fee for Anascorp.
"Our patient financial services team is working directly with Ms. Edmonds to adjust the high out-of-network cost of the Anascorp antivenom she received," wrote the hospital in a statement to the Arizona Republic. "In addition, we are also currently reviewing our pricing of this expensive specialty medication."
Chandler Regional Medical Center also stated that many insurers don´t include the fees for Anascorp.
"We are committed to collaborating with insurance companies and the vendor to find solutions to continue to make this drug more affordable and accessible to Arizona's citizens," mentioned the hospital in the Arizona Republic article.
According to ABC News, the drug is produced in Mexico from horse antibodies. During a 10-year clinical trial, it was given for free to approximately 2,000 patients who suffered from scorpion stings. The drug is used to treat about 10,000 people in Mexico and costs about $100 per dose. However, the number of patients treated with Anascorp is fewer in the U.S., approximately 200 individuals, and the cost of the drug is shared among these patients. The only insect that is deadly and requires the drug is the bark scorpion, which is found in Arizona and a few nearby states.
The scorpion is particularly dangerous for children, as it gives off the same amount of venom for each person and can be particularly dangerous for kids under six years old who may have lower body mass.
"A scorpion sting that would just affect my leg would affect an entire child's body," Dr. Keith Boesen, the director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, told ABC News.
Children who receive scorpion stings are the ones who are treated with the venom most often; the cost of the treatment can be less expensive than staying two days in an intensive care with the use of a ventilator.
"The only way to justify spending that on an anti-venom is that 99 percent of the time it costs less than a day in the ICU," remarked Dr. Richard Clark, director of the toxicology department at the University of California, San Diego, in the ABC News article.