Right-to-die advocates in Washington state have created a cheaper alternative mixture of medications to help terminally ill patients legally end their lives after a drug company abruptly hiked the price of a drug commonly used for the purpose, the AP reports. Doctors with the End of Life Washington advocacy group concocted the alternative for about $500, after Valeant Pharmaceuticals International of Quebec acquired the drug and jacked up the price to about $3,000, per the Seattle Times. "We thought we should concoct an alternative that would work as well," says Robert Wood, a University of Washington HIV/AIDS researcher who volunteers with the group. "It does work as well." The mix of three powdered medications—phenobarbital, chloral hydrate, and morphine sulfate—could be mixed with water, alcohol, or juice.
Doctors in Oregon have also adopted the drug mixture, while officials in California are considering it as well. Valeant Pharmaceuticals and other drugmakers have come under fire from Congress for buying up old drugs and hiking prices many times over what patients had paid for years. Last year, it acquired the rights to Seconal, the trade name of secobarbital sodium, the most commonly prescribed drug used by terminally ill patients to end their lives under the law. The firm doubled the cost, from $1,500 to more than $3,000—and up to $5,000. The sedative once sold for $150 for a lethal 10-gram dose. "People were horrified," says a coordinator with End of Life Washington. "The cost increase has been significant for some people. Some are on a very fixed income." (Read more assisted suicide stories.)