This week KPCC's Investigative Producer Karen Foshay produced a series of stories on the world of compound creams, pain medications that are supposed to be custom-made for patients who for one reason or another can't take oral meds.
Karen found that their average price has taken off as they have become increasingly popular among some doctors, especially those handling workers' compensation cases, and that there are questions about how they are marketed, produced and regulated.
She finished her series with an in-depth look at the indictments of 15 people in Orange County accused of carrying out an elaborate scheme to defraud workers compensation insurers by prescribing huge amounts of expensive compound creams.
The series tracked how some are pushing creams as an alternative for all kinds of pain management, even though they were intended for use in limited instances. There are also indications that creams are being mass produced, which would violate the law, since they are not FDA approved products.
It's not uncommon for creams to cost $1,000, and the price tag can get much higher than that.
Meanwhile, regulation is spotty; Karen found that there's no way to know how many of California’s 7,000 pharmacies do this type of compounding, because the state's Board of Pharmacy does not track that information. And the Board doesn't test the ingredients of compound creams. It says that's the FDA's job, but the FDA says no, it's the state agency's responsibility.
Have you or someone you know had an experience with compound creams? Has your doctor suggested you use a costly compound medication for pain management? Did your insurance cover the cost? Tell us about it in the comments section below, e-mail us at Impatient@scpr.org or become a KPCC source by sharing here.