Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Why is Albumin Expensive?

Almost every egg has two parts -- a yellow yolk, and a clear, viscous liquid that turns into Egg White when heated. Egg white also goes by the name Albumin.

The human version is called human serum albumin, and it normally constitutes about 50% of human plasma protein. It is made up of water-soluble globular proteins, and it is unusual in the sense that it is not attached to any sugar molecule (not glycosylated), because of which it degrades easily.

Inside our blood, Albumin serves as molecular "taxis" ferrying hormones, salts, fatty acids, and a long list of drugs to their target sites. It also helps regulate the colloidal osmotic pressure of blood, controlling the amount of water in our bodies.

If the albumin molecules are so plentiful in nature (plants, animal tissue, eggs, milk), why is it so expensive in packaged form? Is it the manufacturing process that makes it so expensive? Or the Intellectual Property Rights?

There is no shortage of manufacturers, nor is there a shortage of demand. Albumin Serum is necessary to treat shocks, liver disorders, kidney disorders, and a host of diseases that result in an imbalance of body fluids.

Yet, a locally manufactured product like Alba-20% costs Rs.3900 / 100ml infusion. According to a recent report human albumin is currently scarcely available with prices ranging between Rs.3897 and Rs.4092 respectively.

A part of the problem is policy and regulations. Last year, the government brought out an order (DPCO-2013) which stipulated a price control formula for a list of "essential drugs", including Albumin. This brought the cost of 1ml (20% albumin infusion) to Rs. 36.6.

Considering the prevailing sales price, this does not seem like a huge cut (Rs.39- Rs.36), but many drug companies responded by just stopping the manufacture of Albumin for the domestic markets.

So, thanks partly to a well intended policy, we now have a huge artificial shortage of an essential drug.

The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions... :(



* http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/535912/serum-albumin
* MJ (2002) - The role of albumin in critical illnesses - http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/content/85/4/599.full

* The Drug Price Control Order 2013 - http://www.nppaindia.nic.in/DPCO2013.pdf
* Blood Banks supply plasma to sustain supply of Albumin - http://pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=85989&sid=1

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_serum_albumin
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycosylation

No comments: