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Ther-Rx and its parent company became involved about three years ago and acquired rights to the drug from a Massachusetts company named Hologic Inc., said Divis, who is also Ther-Rx’s president.

To get FDA approval, the company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in additional research, including an international study involving 1,700 women, Divis said. The FDA last month signed off and gave Makena orphan drug status. That designation ensures Ther-Rx will be the sole source of the drug for seven years.

The March of Dimes, which gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from Ther-Rx, celebrated the approval in a press release, saying if all women eligible for the shots receive them, nearly 10,000 spontaneous premature births could be prevented each year.

“For the first time, we have an FDA-approved treatment to offer women who have delivered a baby too soon, giving them hope that their next child will have a better chance at a healthy start in life,” said Dr. Alan Fleischman, the organization’s medical director.

As for the cost, he said the drug maker’s financial assistance program will ensure no eligible woman is denied the drug due to inability to pay.

Some doctors said they were happy getting the cheaper version from compounding pharmacies, and Aetna’s Armstrong said she was unaware of any quality concerns.

Still, doctors will use the Ther-Rx brand, in part because of legal worries.

Not that they have a choice: Last month, KV sent cease-and-desist letters to compounding pharmacies, telling them they could face FDA enforcement actions if they kept making the drug.