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$180,000 medicine for Miami Twp. boy’s seizures

MIAMI TWP. — Abigail Martin is grateful for the life-saving drugs her 22-month-old son Aston takes for his epileptic seizures, but the listed price — $180,000 for an eight-week treatment — leaves the Miami Twp. mother shaking her head.

“For Aston they are life-saving drugs that if he didn’t have them he’d be having seizures and that could kill him,” Martin said. “It’s not just, ‘I have heartburn and I need some Prilosec.’ It’s the fact that something that is saving my child is so expensive.”

Fortunately for Martin, her insurance plan covered most of the cost, leaving her to pay the $5,000 deductible. But the drug industry has drawn ire for the high cost of specialty drugs like the one Aston takes — injectable H.P. Acthar Gel.

READ MORE:3 reasons prescription drugs cost so much

Even with insurance some drug prices are out of reach for those who need them.

H.P. Acthar Gel is known as an orphan drug, or a highly-specialized medication used to treat one or a handful of rare conditions affecting fewer than 200,000 patients.

“There’s one company that makes it,” Abigail Martin said. “They don’t have a competitor.”

VIDEO: How do drug prices get set?

The profit margins on these drugs are so slim — and the demand so small — there is little incentive for companies to develop cheaper generics, industry experts say. That means families often have little choice but to pay up. After all, if a life is at stake, not getting the drug is hardly an option.

Aston Martin is one of those patients whose life is at stake. His spasms, if left untreated, could cause developmental delays and even death. He was having 50 to 100 small seizures daily before the treatment, and is now down to just a few a day.

His mother said he’s a different kid after the medicine but she worries about the cost if he were to need another round of treatment.

Read more about why prescription drugs cost so much, and how everyone pays in the full I-Team investigation.