A federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. - Washington, D.C. 20201
Letter to Governors
January 21, 2010
As we continue our partnership in the fight against the 2009 HINI influenza virus, we are writing to bring your attention to a critical issue.
First, thank you for all that you and your fellow state and local leaders have done, and continue to do, to combat the spread of the 2009 HINI flu. We understand the significant demands this effort has placed on your staff and your resources. While we have faced significant challenges, we continue to make good progress in the effort to produce vaccine and distribute it across the country, and the collaboration between all levels of government continues to be strong.
Unfortunately, at a time when we most need to work together, not everyone has the best interests of the American people in mind. While the federal government has worked closely with states to ensure that enough antiviral drugs are available to those who need them, there have been reports of some retailers charging excessive fees - well over $100 in some cases - for a treatment course of these drugs. Note also that the federal government is providing 2009 HINI vaccine free of charge, so no one should be charging consumers for the vaccine itself.
Public health-sponsored clinics may not charge for vaccine administration, though private providers may charge reasonable administration fees. While most providers have worked to ensure cost is not a barrier to vaccination, we have received anecdotal reports of a few providers charging excessive fees for vaccine administration. Price gouging during a national health emergency, whether it involves antivirals, vaccine, or vaccine administration, is unconscionable, and we must do everything in our power to prevent it - now and in the future.
With that in mind, we ask you to closely monitor any possible incidences of price gouging in your state and to use whatever authority your state's laws provide to address it. We recognize that consumer protection laws vary by state, but note that in some states even inquiries into alleged cases of price gouging have caused retailers to lower prices for antiviral drugs.
Finally, please let us know how we can be helpful in distributing information about where consumers in your state can go to report potentially unfair business practices such as these. If there's a phone number or web site in your state that consumers can use for this purpose, we would be happy to post it on www.flu.gov along with our other resources related to 2009 H1N1 flu. Please contact Kate Wolff in the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at HHSIGA@hhs.gov or 202-690-6060 with information about your state's consumer protection tools.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. By being vigilant and working together, we can combat price gouging wherever and whenever it occurs.
Secretary, U.S. Health & Human Services
Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice