Daraprim can be a hard pill to swallow, especially since the price of a single pill just increased from $13.50 to $750 — seemingly overnight.
That more than 5,000 percent price hike for the medication – which is used to treat toxoplasmosis and malaria – was handed down by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a privately held startup biotech company that acquired the rights to the drug in August for $55 million, according to the New York Times.
It appears to be a move by Turing to take an older, “neglected” drug and transform it into an expensive “specialty drug,” the Times said.
“This seems to be all profit-driven for somebody, and I just think it’s a very dangerous process,” said Dr. Judith Aberg, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The price hike for Daraprim is the latest in a string of dramatic prescription drug increases.
“While most of the attention on pharmaceutical prices has been on new drugs for diseases like cancer, hepatitis C and high cholesterol, there is also growing concern about huge price increases on older drugs, some of them generic, that have long been mainstays of treatment,” the NYT said.
Several years ago, Daraprim (pyrimethamine) – which went on sale in 1955 – sold for about $1 per pill, Consumerist reports. Now, depending on a patient’s weight, doctors say a year’s supply of Daraprim can cost upwards of $336,000 to $634,500.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association have requested that Turing “immediately revise the pricing strategy.”
Turing founder and CEO Martin Shkreli said the price hike will have a negligible impact on the health care system because it’s not prescribed very often. According to the NYT’s report:
“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Mr. Shkreli said. He said that many patients use the drug for far less than a year and that the price was now more in line with those of other drugs for rare diseases.
“This is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world,” he said. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”
In other prescription drug news, a huge price hike for tuberculosis drug cycloserine has been withdrawn, the Times reports. Rodelis Therapeutics recently acquired the drug and then proceeded to increase the price of 30 pills of cycloserine from $500 to $10,800.
Rodelis agreed to turn the rights to the drug back to its previous owner, a nonprofit manufacturing organization affiliated with Purdue University, the Times said.
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