Wall Street Journal Examines Law Enforcement Officials’ Efforts To Curb Black Market Sales of Serostim
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined U.S. law enforcement officials' efforts to curb black-market sales of an AIDS medication "that has found an underground recreational use as a bodybuilding drug." Serostim, which is a growth hormone, is prescribed to HIV-positive patients to treat AIDS-related wasting. However, some bodybuilders use the injectable drug to "pump up their muscles," according to the Journal. Serostim, unlike anabolic steroids, is undetectable by sports groups' blood tests. A 12-week supply of the drug, which is manufactured by Geneva-based Serono Laboratories, costs about $21,000. Many AIDS patients receive the drug through the state-federal Medicaid program, which includes the medication in its drug formularies. However, some patients use little or none of the drug, instead selling it on the black market for up to $2,000 for a week's supply. Police have broken up illegal Serostim sales rings in California, New York, Hawaii and New Jersey. In addition to authorities' efforts to stop illegal sales of the drug, Medicaid programs and Serono have taken steps to fight the problem (Windham, Wall Street Journal, 1/19). Federal and state officials involved in investigating the sales rings are looking for evidence of possible improper sales, improper billing of state Medicaid programs and improper financial incentives to encourage doctors and pharmacists to prescribe the drug. Sales of Serostim have fallen from $125 million in 2001 to $95 million in 2002 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/23/03). According to Serono, about 5,000 HIV-positive people in the United States currently take Serostim (Wall Street Journal, 1/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.