SEATTLE -- The Attorney General’s Office is urging consumers, businesses and health care providers to be on alert and immediately report suspected price gouging or counterfeit/diluted flu vaccine by either distributors or providers.
So far, the office has received at least two reports from Grant and Pierce counties about overpriced flu vaccine and is concerned there may be more.
An administrator at the Grant County Health District told the state she was offered the flu vaccine at a price of $400 to $600 per vial from pharmaceutical distributor Meds- Stat, also known as ASAP Meds in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Kansas Attorney General filed a price gouging suit against the same company this week, claiming one Kansas City pharmacy was charged $900 for a 10-dose vial (more than 10 times the original market value). On Oct. 1, the price for the same vial was listed at $85.
The Grant County Health District in Washington normally pays between $67- $85 per vial. Such pricing may violate Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
During a similar shortage last year in King County, a counterfeit flu vaccine appeared on the market. A suspect was criminally investigated and charged by King County prosecutors.
Flu vaccine is in short supply this year because British regulators unexpectedly shut down a major U.S. vaccine supplier, Chiron Corp. As a result, a shipment of 48 million expected flu shots was lost.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week urged state attorneys general across the nation to thoroughly investigate reports of price gouging on flu vaccine. The department’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is collecting reports on price gouging and sharing it with the National Association of Attorneys General and state prosecutors.
The CDC is in close contact with the Washington Attorney General’s Office to report any known violations of price gouging. Anyone with knowledge of a fake or diluted vaccine should contact the Department of Health and police. Those with knowledge of theft of the vaccine should contact police.
Washington consumers or retailers who suspect they are being overcharged for flu vaccine are encouraged to report it to the AG’s office by calling 1-800-551-4636 or logging onto www.atg.wa.gov to file a complaint.