Nightly News | March 30, 2011
>>> back now, as we mentioned, with news about a very promising drug that can mean the difference between life and death for newborn babies and save so many families so much heartache. every year, according to the march of dimes , more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the u.s. premature birth is the leading cause of infant death around the globe. the federal government recently approved a new drug to help prevent premature births, but instead of joy what happened next has triggered outrage. our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers , explains why.
>> reporter: 7-year-old maeve is this couple's first child. she's healthy and thriving today, but she was born very prematurely, three weeks in intensive care.
>> so she really did struggle?
>> she did.
>> reporter: keelan is now pregnant again with twins and takes weekly injections of a hormone compound designed to delay delivery and enable her babies to develop more fully. several weeks ago, she and others got good news. the fda approved a new drug similar to the compound, called makena. it specifically reduces the risk of preterm births. then came the price. instead of the $20 she had been paying, the drug would cost $ 1500 a dose. as much as $30,000 during a pregnancy.
>> i was incredibly angry that it could possibly go from $10 to $20 a shot to $ 1500 . i was in shock. i couldn't believe that that was even possible.
>> reporter: and some doctors are outraged too.
>> it's all about money. it's not about the patient.
>> reporter: the drug company , kv pharmaceutical, initially said the high price is justified, to recover research and development costs. and the company told pharmacies making the cheaper compound that they had to stop. but today the fda said the pharmacies could still make the compound, and the march of dimes and doctors groups are calling on kv to substantially lower the price of the drug.
>> if the women can't afford it, we have lost a very significant opportunity to try and make a dent in the very high rate of prematurity in this country.
>> reporter: today the embattled drug company said it's heard these concerns. it's committed to making the drug affordable, and will take action on pricing by the end of the week. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.