Black market Excedrin has been selling for more than $1 a pill on eBay as people try to skirt the headache of a chronic shortage.
“I sold about $2,500 worth of 12 boxes last week,” eBay seller Jason Strycharz told Torstar News Service on Friday.
“One person bought $1,100 worth, that’s more than $1 a pill.”
Strycharz, a 30-year-old father of three living in California, is among a dozen or more people charging up to 16 times the shelf price for a bottle of the headache and migraine over-the-counter medication.
Maalox, the indigestion medication also caught in the shortage, has also been selling on eBay for 10 times the shelf price.
Excedrin, Maalox, Bufferin, Buckley’s, NeoCitran and NoDoz have become harder to find since the single Novartis plant in Lincoln, Neb., that manufactured them for the North American market shut down in January to retool and issued a voluntary recall of certain types and lots of bottles.
U.S. health inspectors had uncovered 13 serious problems of damaged or mixed-up medicines at the Lincoln plant during investigations in June 2011 and sent a warning letter to Novartis International in Switzerland last November about three other manufacturing plants.
The decision to close the Lincoln plant was voluntary and pre-emptive, a spokeswoman for Novartis said, to “ensure out products meet the highest quality standards.” The company had promised to reopen and resume production “in the second half of the year.”
A spokeswoman told Torstar News Service Friday that was still the plan.
Shoppers Drug Mart told News Service that many of their stores were out of the medications involved.
“If you get migraines, you have to have Excedrin. That’s why the demand is so high,” Strycharz said. “I have to take two per day in the morning, no matter what.”
In his search for supplies, he found “an illegal immigrant who will sell me 800 pills for 30 bucks” which he figures is about the regular retail price.
The online auction site took down his listings Friday morning, Strycharz said, but he expected to be back in business in a few days.
Ebay sellers specify if they’re selling bottles or individually-wrapped pills “not involved in the recall.”