Turing reverses decision on 5,000% drug price hike

September 21, 2015

The latest specialty drug pricing debate centers around Daraprim for toxoplasmosis infections, the price of which skyrocketed 5,000% within a month.

Turing Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday reversed its very unpopular decision to raise the price of a 62-year-old drug, Daraprim (pyrimethamine), for toxoplasmosis infections, 5,000% 

Related: 5 ways to manage specialty drug expenses

Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug in August, and then quickly raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750 per pill. However, after outrage from patients, healthcare providers and even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the company said it would lower Daraprim’s price.

"We've agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit, and we think these changes will be welcome," Turing CEO Martin Shkreli told ABC World News Tonight. The cost of the pill has not been determined, he said, but will be less than $750 per pill.

Some media outlets have reported that Daraprim is typically prescribed to AIDS and cancer patients, but according to Turing, it is not. In a statement, the company wrote: "To be clear, Daraprim is approved to treat toxoplasmosis, which affects people with compromised immune systems. Toxoplasmosis is a very serious, sometimes deadly disease, yet there have been no significant advances or research into this disease area in decades."

Related:Americans want drug pricing reform

The signficant price hike could have forced hospitals to use “alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy," Judith Aberg, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told CNBC.

However, the Daraprim fiasco is just the latest example of specialty drug price gouging, lawmakers and others say. For example, after Rodelis Therapeutics bought the rights to cycloserine, prescribed for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, it hiked the price from $500 for 30 pills to $10,800 for 30 pills.

Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Elijah Cummings, who are investigating generic drug price increases, also criticized Valeant Pharmaceuticals for raising the prices of the heart medications Isuprel and Nitropress by 525% and 212% respectively, soon after acquiring them.

The lawmakers also sent letters to 14 generic drugmakers, asking them why the price of certain medications continues to rise.

In the company statement, Turing said it would "work with any patient, hospital, clinic and financial institution – on a case-by-case basis – to help secure access to Daraprim."

Financial assistance programs administered by a specialty pharmacy provider to support patients with financial need have been established, according to the company. "This includes offering the product without charge to qualified, uninsured patients," the company said. 

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