IV BAGS: Salt in our wounds

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I read with interest the story about the IV bag shortage, and had to chuckle. Three years ago, there was an alleged IV shortage, and USA Today wrote about it in a headline labeled “Hospitals struggle with intravenous saline shortage.”

Think about this for a second. Are we expected to believe that in a free market economy like ours, we can’t figure out how to ramp up production of a plastic bag filled with saline? Not in a week or two, but three full years?

Perhaps there is more to the story. A year earlier, in 2013, The New York Times wrote a story titled “How to charge $546 for Six Liters of Saltwater.” The story began “The tale of the IV bag shows how secrecy helps keep health care prices high…” The story explains how according to government data, the cost to produce this same bag ranged from 44 cents to $1.

In 2016, according to the legal site “law 360,” Baxter and Hospira were accused in federal court of conspiring to limit the amount of IV solution on the market “and then hiking up prices, leaving hospitals scrambling to get their hands on enough of the vital substance.” The hospital that brought the suit alleged that both companies conspired to institute a series of recalls that pulled the drug off the market to take advantage of buyers. Together, the two companies control around 90 percent of the IV market.

In life, when things don’t make sense, it is always a good idea to follow the money to see if there is a more plausible answer.

LARRY SPENCER

Executive Director

Idaho Property Owner’s Association

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