Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals, became over night one of the most despised figures in the pharmaceutical industry when just as suddenly he raised the price of the only treatment of a rare parasitic infection by 5,000 percent. The drug, Daraprim, was initially developed in 1953 and used to cost $1 a pill only a couple years ago. I have no idea what Shkreli thought would happen after he’d raise the price 500-fold in one go, but he got some serious backlash. “I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people,” he said while under the spotlight, but this promise made a month ago is still unfulfilled shattering whatever credibility Shkreli had left.
“We … are concerned that despite a commitment by Turing Pharmaceuticals to lower the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine) more than a month ago, the price has not been reduced nor have distribution issues been sufficiently addressed,” said a statement released by the HIV Medicine Association which represents more than 150 health groups.
The patent for Daraprim has long expired, meaning manufacturers can make their own generic copies freely. Shkreli’s bet, however, was that other companies wouldn’t care to invest in a drug that sells to less than 10,000 individuals each year in the US. He also controls a tight distribution.
This Thursday, San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals took matters into its own hands and announced an alternative to Daraprim. The drug will be sold as low as $99 for a 100-pill supply or less than $1 a pill. Daraprim costs $750 a tablet.
“Daraprim’s active ingredient is pyrimethamine, which has been available since 1953 for the treatment of parasitic diseases (namely malaria and toxoplasmosis). Imprimis’ alternative also contains pyrimethamine as well as leucovorin, which the company said helps to reverse pyrimethamine’s negative effects on bone marrow.
Until now, Turing was the sole producer of a pyrimethamine-based drug, which is often prescribed to patients with compromised immune systems such as those suffering from AIDS and cancer.”
Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis stated, “It is indisputable that generic drug prices have soared recently. While we have seen an increase in costs associated with regulatory compliance, recent generic drug price increases have made us concerned and caused us to take positive action to address an opportunity to help a needy patient population. While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim, for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider. This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug – especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim – has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable. In response to this recent case and others that we will soon identify, Imprimis is forming a new program called Imprimis Cares which is aligned to our corporate mission of making novel and customizable medicines available to physicians and patients today at accessible prices.”
Great way to ride the PR wave for Imprimis, but as long as this drug is accessible to the public at a reasonable price (yes, $1 is reasonable!) I can only rejoice. As for Shkreli, he must be ruined by now. Business execs, don’t be a Shkreli please.