Outcry Forces Turing Pharma to Reduce Price Increase of Toxoplasmosis Drug
September 23, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
NEW YORK – Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals, said he will lower the cost of Daraprim after public outcry over a 5,000 percent increase of the 62-year-old drug was implemented.
Shkreli announced Tuesday night that he will roll back the increased cost, but did not specify how much, the Washington Post reported this morning.
“We’ve agreed to lower the price on Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit,” Shkreli told ABC News.
Turing acquired Daraprim in August and increased the price of the drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet, an increase of 5,000 percent. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite that threatens those who have compromised immune systems, such as cancer and HIV patients, as well as pregnant women. The drug is used by about 2,000 people in the United States annually for a period of six to 12 weeks.
Shkreli defended the price increase, saying the price is a bargain because of its life-saving capabilities. When Turing acquired the drug, Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager, said the funds from the price increase would be used to subsidize new research into treatments for toxoplasmosis.
On Turing’s website, the company sought to quell the public outcry.
“We are committed to ensuring easy and affordable access to this important treatment, and our commitment extends to improving the care and treatment of patients who are diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, a very rare disorder,” the company said in a statement.
Healthcare workers decried the increase, saying the price will keep it out of the hands of many people who need the treatment, which is the only one on the market for toxoplasmosis, but will not be unable to afford a full regimen.
It wasn’t just healthcare workers who were furious over the increase. The public also shared its disapproval. Shkreli and the company have received sharp criticism from the public since the news of the price hike went public earlier this week. Members of the public lashed out at them on a Turing Facebook page that may not actually be associated with the pharmaceutical company. Regardless of the page's legitimacy, the public has shared its opinions of Turing and its CEO. One poster said she wanted to know the name of every drug Turing had in its pipeline so she would know what products not to buy. Another poster referred to Turing management as scum, saying the company believes in profit above all else. Yet another poster compared Shkreli to the parasitic toxoplasmosis by calling him “a life-threatening parasitic infection.”
Politicians also weighed in on the price increase. Former U.S. Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said if she is elected she would to cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $250. Her comment sent the stock market into a state of flux, with several large companies seeing a drop in their stock of up to 10 percent. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index dropped 4.4 percent and the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF dropped by 6 percent.
Even members of the pharmaceutical industry expressed disapproval. John J. Castellani, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry's trade group, said he did not think the increase was with merit.
“PhRMA typically does not comment on matters related to individual company products or product pricing decisions," he said in a statement. But, "Turing Pharmaceutical is not a member of PhRMA and we do not embrace either their recent actions or the conduct of their CEO.”
Will the Presidential Election Change the Face of the Way Prescription Drugs are Sold in the United States?
Although Turing Pharmaceuticals announced it will revise its 5,000 percent increase of a newly acquired drug to treat toxoplasmosis, the move sparked a public outcry that resulted in one presidential candidate calling for price caps on prescription medication.
In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from Impax Laboratories and increased the price of the medication from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet, a 5,000 percent increase. Turing Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli defended the increase, saying the revenues would be used to subsidize new research into treatments for toxoplasmosis. Has since said the company will reduce the price, but did not specify what the price would be.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said if elected she would cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $250 to avoid “price gouging.” Her comment sent the stock market into a state of flux, with several large companies seeing a drop in their stock of up to 10 percent. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index dropped 4.4 percent and the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF dropped by 6 percent.
BioSpace wants to know what you think: Will the presidential election change the face of the way prescription drugs are sold in the United States?