CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - MUSC confirmed Wednesday it is working to procure the drug recently used to treat the so-called "brain-eating amoeba" being offered to hospitals across the country on a consignment basis.
The drug, miltefosine, was brought by courier from Orlando to Charleston this week to treat a case of the infection caused by Naegleria fowleri, an
amoeba commonly found in soil.
Profounda CEO Todd MacLaughlan, whose company manufactures miltefosine, says he has set up a consignment program with hospitals.
"Because this is so rare a condition, my thinking was, rather than sitting in a warehouse, it's better the drug be on hand, better to be at the hospital level," MacLaughlan said. "If they don't use it, the hospital won't be charged for it."
"We received the consignment agreement today and will go through our normal channels to obtain approval to be a recognized consignment site," MUSC Pharmacy Supply Chain Manager Jason Mills said in a statement. "Meanwhile we are still able to procure miltefosine by working directly with Profounda."
MacLaughlan said the drug has a shelf life of two years and is stored at room temperature. It is an oral medication, taken by mouth, and is expensive, he said.
"It's about $48,000 for the treatment," MacLaughlan said. "We could have it in the warehouse and let it expire, or put it in the community, and make it available."
The amoeba has led to rare, fatal infections, and is contracted during activities in warm, fresh water. Infections have also been connected to the use of neti pots and religious rituals, as well as improperly-chlorinated water.
The amoeba claimed the lives of two South Carolina children, 8-year-old Blake Driggers, who died after a family outing in Lake Marion in 2012, and 10-year-old Liza Hollingsworth, who had been in freshwater in Mount Pleasant in 2010.
But in recent years, miltefosine has offered hope to patients who have contracted the deadly infection.
Amoeba awareness advocates are urging hospitals to stock the medication, for the often young patients who face rapid decline, and death within days.
Palmetto Health Hospital in Columbia now has the drug on hand, according to a hospital spokesman. It is not clear when the medication arrived there.
MacLaughlan said hospitals can arrange to acquire the drug through the drug website, Impavido.com.