Excessive prices on infant formula? WA Senators Murray and Cantwell call for investigation | Washington
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must investigate whether national retail chains and online vendors have raised prices for specialty infant formula during the current shortage, says Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“No one should take advantage of the baby formula shortage, especially the big retail chains,” Murray said. “This is a critical time when the federal government must crack down on any price increases during this crisis.”
It led other senators to send a letter Tuesday to Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, asking that staff investigate unfair trade practices at national retail chains.
Murray is joined on the letter by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who is the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FTC.
“It’s my job to be a voice for parents from Washington State to Richland, or anywhere else, who need to be heard in Congress – and no parent desperate to feed their baby should see higher prices for her baby’s formula because a company is trying to increase profits,” Murray said in a commentary to the Tri-City Herald.
Parents in the Tri-Cities area continue to have to research the different types of infant formula that are best for their baby.
There were 28 posts in the 24 hours of mid-morning Tuesday on the Tri-Cities Find My Formula Facebook page sharing advice on where formula was and was not available, asking for help locating specific formulas and warn of a scammer.
Increase in the price of formulas
“I just opened my last box of formula,” one adoptive mom posted. She said she couldn’t find the brand and formula her foster baby tolerates best, Nutramigen, and posted a photo of the rash on the little girl’s face when she tried a hypoallergenic formula different.
Another mother posted that she had a canister to spare the adoptive mother as she planned to drive to Spokane in search of more.
Nutramigen, which is designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy and those who may develop eczema or asthma, is one of the hardest formulas to find right now, Richland’s Mac Jaehnert said.
He administers the local Find My Formula Facebook page after struggling to find a specialist supplement that his daughter was born into prematurely.
He says a Tri-Cities Rite Aid has raised their price for Nutramigen over the past 18 months from $33 or $34 to $44.
“It’s a really big leap,” he said.
He also checked Target, which had a lower price, but no canisters on the shelf, he said.
Rite Aid is one of the few stores in the Tri-Cities to have Nutramigen in stock, but parents who still find it may leave the store empty-handed, he said.
Not only are prices rising, but Rite Aid is not accepting payments from the Washington State Women’s, Infants, and Children’s Nutrition Program, or WIC, leaving parents to pay $44 out of pocket, it said. -he declares.
Rite Aid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Specialized formulas are a problem
Murray and other senators have received similar reports that some large retail chains and online secondary markets have dramatically raised prices for specialty formula products.
“A major retailer appears to have increased its price for at least one specialty formula by more than 33% between October 2020 and May 2022,” the letter to the FTC chairwoman said.
Parents and guardians report that when they find online vendors with a specialized formula, they sometimes make more than double the cost in-store.
Among the babies who need specialized formulas are those who are allergic to milk and infants born prematurely, who need specific formulas to help them develop.
“At a time when families are already grappling with inflation, these practices harm children and their families when they are most vulnerable,” the letter said. “They need to be studied and reduced.”
Murray and other senators signing the letter are asking the FTC to work with state attorneys general, including Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, to ensure companies that inflate prices for specialty formula products are held responsible.
Murray has previously lobbied the Food and Drug Administration for its belated response to concerns about Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan facility.
A whistleblower notified the FDA of problems at the Abbott plant in October, but the FDA did not inspect the plant until January 31. And on February 17, the formula was recalled.
Over the past few weeks, Murray has worked with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., to push manufacturers to produce more formulas and to ask the Biden administration to appoint a formula coordinator to lead a national strategy.
Murray also chaired a hearing on the infant formula crisis, questioning FDA Commissioner Robert Califf about his agency’s response to the crisis.