COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ)– She helped guide the Maryland women’s basketball team to a national championship. But coach Brenda Frese has a new foe off the court– helping to expose companies raking in cash for drugs in short supply while patients are fighting to survive.
Jessica Kartalija spent a day with the coach and explains why this cause means so much to her.
University of Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese tells WJZ that she’s heartbroken that pharmaceutical companies would put profit over patient care.
Coach Brenda Frese’s son, Tyler, was just 2 years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I was in shock,” Frese said. “You know, to think that nowadays, 21st century, we have drugs short in supply, then to even later find out that some of the shortage is due to the fact that people are trying to profit off of it. Just sick to my stomach.”
Now, patients are learning Cytarabine, the chemotherapy drug used to treat Tyler, is unavailable.
“We rely, we count on this medicine for our son. I mean, this is what hopefully is going to cure him,” said Frese.
The drug is in such high demand its maker, Allied Medical Supply Inc., is selling it for $990 a bottle– that’s 80 times the normal sale price.
“I reached out to a lot of different outlets through the university here, and Cummings responded. And I appreciate the fact that they’re looking into it,” she said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the shortage is caused by manufacturing delays. Congressman Elijah Cummings is targeting middleman companies that buy the drugs in high demand, then sell them at exorbitant prices– a form of drug speculation.
“For others to go and buy up the supplies and then sell them, sometimes 40 to 50 times what they would regularly sell for, I think if it’s not criminal, it should be made a crime,” Cummings said.
Frese tells WJZ she will continue to do whatever it takes, appealing to lawmakers to get pharmaceutical companies to come down on their prices.
Her son, Tyler, is expected to make a full recovery.