How Much Do Physician-Assisted Suicide Drugs Cost?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Death with Dignity answered the question, "How Much Does the Medication Cost?" on the FAQs page available at deathwithdignity.org (accessed on June 12, 2018):

"Cost varies based on medication type and availability as well as the protocol used (additional medications must be consumed prior to the lethal medications at an extra cost). The following are only estimates as prices and availability change. The actual prescription depends on the physician's assessment.

Pentobarbital in liquid form cost about $500 until about 2012, when the price rose to between $15,000 and $25,000. The price increase was caused by the European Union's ban on exports to the US because of the drug being used in capital punishment, a practice that is illegal and deemed deplorable there; many international pharmaceutical companies don't export the drug to the United States for the same reason. Users then switched to the powdered form, which cost between $400 and $500.

The dose of secobarbital (brand name Seconal) prescribed under Death with Dignity laws costs $3,000 to $5,000.

Due to the increase in the cost of Seconal, alternate mixtures of medications has been developed by physicians in Washington state. The phenobarbital/chloral hydrate/morphine sulfate mix produces a lethal dose that is similar in effect to Seconal. The cost of this alternate mix is approximately $450 to $500. A second alternative, consisting of morphine sulfate, Propranolol (Inderal), Diazepam (Valium), Digoxin and a buffer suspension costs about $600. A compounding pharmacy will need to prepare each mixture."

June 12, 2018 - Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) 

Paul Sisson, reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, in a July 2, 2017 article, "A Year after Assisted Suicide Became Legal in California, Hurdles Remain," available at the San Diego Union-Tribune website, stated:

"Seconal, the medication most preferred by physicians and patients for assisted suicide, costs $3,400 per dosing, said a North County pharmacist who sells the drug for end-of-life cases. She identified herself only as Angela and asked that her pharmacy's name not be published for fear of backlash from some business partners.

In March 2016, less than three months before California's law took effect, Valeant Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Seconal from $1,500 to its current rate. Although the company released a statement that said linking the new law and its price hike 'defies common sense,' it has faced significant criticism for the move.

The medical community subsequently developed a less-expensive compound for assisted suicide that sells for about $600, but in some patients, that formulation may take a day or more to achieve full effect. Seconal usually acts much more quickly, doctors said."

July 2, 2017 - Paul Sisson 

JoNel Aleccia, Senior Correspondent for Kaiser Health News, in a Dec. 15, 2016 article, "In Colorado, a Low-Price Drug Cocktail Will Tamp Down Cost of Death with Dignity," available at usatoday.com, stated:

"As of March, the latest data available, a bottle of 100 capsules of 100-milligram Seconal had a retail price of $3,082, according to data from Truven Health Analytics. Ten grams is a lethal dose…

To fight the high prices, doctors in Washington state experimented last year with a cheaper mixture that included three drugs — phenobarbital, chloral hydrate and morphine sulfate. The components are widely available and cost about $500 for a lethal dose. But the combination turned out to be too harsh…

[Volunteer medical adviser for End of Life Washington, Dr. Robert] Wood and his colleagues came up with a new option this summer, a four-drug mixture that includes diazepam, digoxin, morphine and propranolol, known as DDMP. It costs between $300 and $600."

Dec. 15, 2016 - JoNel Aleccia, MA 

Kevin Simpson, Denver Post reporter, in a Dec. 14, 2017 article, "Aid-in-Dying Medications Can Run from $500 to $4,000 in Colorado," available at denverpost.com, stated:

"The aid-in-dying medication most often used is secobarbital, marketed under the trade name Seconal, a sedative that can be lethal in larger doses.

But when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International acquired the drug in 2015, its price skyrocketed, prompting a search for a less-expensive alternative. In Colorado, the cost for a 10-gram dose can exceed $4,000.

A three-drug combination of phenobarbital, chloral hydrate and morphine sulfate was introduced in Washington state in 2015, with a cost of about $500. That mixture, while effective, generally takes longer to work and proved so harsh that it caused some users distress.

A similarly priced version of diazepam, digoxin, morphine and propranolol, or DDMP, has been used as an alternative. That compound also runs around $500 in Colorado."

Dec. 14, 2017 - Kevin Simpson 

Derek Humphry, Founder of the Hemlock Society, in a Sep. 5, 2015 blog post, "Dying Well Can Cost a Lot of Money," available at assisted-dying.org, stated:

"Life-ending peaceful drugs cost up to $20,000

Terminally ill patients wanting a peaceful death in Oregon and Washington are being charged between $3,000 and $20,000 a time for the barbiturate lethal drugs which doctors are permitted to prescribe under the Death With Dignity Acts. Health insurance companies are refusing to pay these exorbitant sums, leaving most patients unable to relieve their suffering.

The long-established superior drug for doctor-hastened death, Nembutal (sodium pentobarbital) has rocketed to prices upwards of $20,000 in America. The next most widely used drug for this purpose is Seconal (secobarbital) for which manufacturers and pharmacies are charging patients $3,000 and sometimes more.

In European countries where assisted suicide is allowed, the price for a lethal dose remains at between $400 and $500."

Sep. 5, 2015 - Derek Humphry