Infantile spasms, also called West syndrome, is a catastrophic and rare form of epilepsy. It's diagnosed in babies with seizures that show abnormal bursts in the brain's electrical activity on an electroencephalogram or EEG.
At Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, infantile spasm is treated as an emergency, said neurologist Dr. Carter Snead. Rapid treatment is critical. He's angry about the price increase.
"This was just dropped like a bombshell," Snead said about the way the price increase was communicated to provinces and hospitals.
"The price of Synacthen Depot increased by more than 2,000 per cent from $33.05 per vial to $680 per vial," said Carolyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for Alberta Health.
The price was so high that Alberta delisted it in July, Ziegler said, meaning it's no longer automatically paid for by the province. The drug may still be provided on a case-by-case basis
Health officials in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario reported similar increases.
"They just bought it and jacked up the price," Snead said.
Mia Brooks calls the price increase "absurd." She's worried that she will eventually be asked to pay for some of that increase.
"There's no way we can access that amount of money," she said.
The global pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt owns the rights to Synacthen Depot in Canada. Mallinckrodt says it increased the price because of a change of manufacturing. The company did not respond to requests for details about where it manufacturers the drug and why the change in manufacturing justifies the price increase.
"When Mallinckrodt acquired Questcor in 2014, Synacthen Depot was one of the products in the portfolio. It was losing money then and still is. Moreover, in the spring of 2014, Mallinckrodt was told by the existing supplier of the product that they would cease production in early 2016," a Mallinckrodt spokesman said in an email to CBC News.
Health Canada said it knows where the drug is made but says it considers the information proprietary.
2,000% price hike for infant seizure drug called 'absurd' - Health - CBC News