Bites from two different snakes in Idaho require antivenom. Here’s how much it’ll cost youPublished at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – There are 12 snake species in Idaho, and none are perhaps as dangerous as the Western rattlesnake and prairie rattlesnake, Idaho’s two venomous snakes.
Although rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive, they will strike when threatened or provoked, such as by unaware hikers and climbers in the Boise Foothills and mountains of Idaho. And not only do those bites hurt you physically, but the antivenom price can also hurt your wallet.
But where can you get antivenom, and how much does it cost?
HOW MUCH DOES SNAKE ANTIVENOM COST?
The St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health systems carry vials of snake antivenom.
According to Scott Milner, regional director of pharmacy for Saint Alphonsus, treatment for a snake bite starts at 10 vials of antivenom.
“These antivenom therapies are unique as the doses administered are not adjusted to body weight/size/age of the patient, which is very different,” Milner told the Idaho Statesman via email. “The dose is calculated to match the venom as tracked by expansion of signs/symptoms, but the starting dose is 10 vials at a time.”
The two main antivenoms for a snake bite are Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab Ovine, or CroFab, and Crotalidae immune F(ab’)2 (equine), which is better known as Anavip. Milner told the Statesman that Saint Alphonsus has recently transitioned from CroFab to Anavip.
“Anavip has full coverage against the American pit vipers that includes rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths,” Milner said. “Idaho is really only home to the Western rattlesnake and the prairie rattlesnake, so this therapy covers our population.”
You can also find hospitals that stock CroFab online by entering your location into an interactive map.
A vial of Anavip costs $1,220, according to Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit journalistic institute focused on health news. For the minimum dosage of 10 vials, snake bite therapy would cost at least $12,220, plus other associated costs with the hospital visit.
CroFab is even more expensive, according to KHN, coming in at $3,198 per vial.
WHY IS SNAKE ANTIVENOM SO EXPENSIVE?
Several factors contribute to the high prices of antivenom.
First, antivenom is complicated to make. The common antivenom used to treat rattlesnake bites, for example, is made by immunizing donor animals such as horses or sheep with snake venom and then harvesting the antibodies produced by these animals, according to the World Health Organization.
But the cost of making antivenom only accounts for about one-tenth of one percent of the total cost of the treatment, according to research cited by The Washington Post from the VIPER Institute at the University of Arizona.
The rest of the sticker price for antivenom is made up of costs such as licensing fees and legal costs, coming in at about 28% of the cost, and hospital markups — which are generally discounted by health insurers for patients with coverage — coming in at about 70% of the price, according to the VIPER Institute’sresearch.
Additionally, since snakebites are relatively uncommon — though the CDC says about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year — the antivenom market is relatively small, and there isn’t a huge demand or market for the product.