Turing Pharma Not Justified in Increasing Daraprim Price by 5,000 Percent, BioSpace Readers Say

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September 25, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

CHICAGO -- BioSpace readers have spoken and the vast majority disapproved of Turing Pharmaceuticals’ controversial decision to raise the price of a recently acquired 62-year old drug by about 5,000 percent.

More than 300 readers sounded off in a BioSpace poll conducted over a two-day period this week about the price increase that cast Turing and Martin Shkreli, its chief executive officer, into the limelight of infamy.

For a quick look at the background, Turing acquired Darapirm, a drug that treats toxoplasmosis, for $55 million and proceeded to increase the price of the medication from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet, an increase of approximately 5,000 percent. Since news broke of the price increase, Shkreli announced the company would reduce the price of the drug, which has no competitors, but did not specify what the new price would be. Still, the price increase has become something of a political football with some members of Congress calling for an investigation. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced that if elected she would seek to cap prescription drug prices at $250 to avoid “price gouging.”

With price caps rearing its head again in Washington, BioSpace wanted to know what our readers thought about Turing’s decision and what fallout may come from it.

Not surprisingly, 92 percent of poll respondents said Turing was not justified in raising the price of Daraprim as high as it did. Of the 302 responses, only 24 said the price increase was justifiable.

When it comes to a drug company’s decision to increase pricing on an established drug, 159 respondents, 53 percent, said a 10 percent price increase is justifiable. Twenty-one percent said a 50 percent price increase was OK and 17 percent said a 100 percent increase was fine. Six percent said a 500 percent increase in price point was acceptable and the remaining 4 percent said a 1,000 percent increase in cost was OK.

When it came to Clinton’s price cap idea, 192 respondents, or 64 percent, said such a move would hinder future industry-wide research and development activity, while the remaining 36 percent said it would not negatively impact R&D.

More than three-fourths of those polled, 78 percent, said drug companies have an obligation to maintain price control of prescription medicine for the good of society.

Readers did not see an emerging biosimilar market as a reason for pharmaceutical companies to increase prices. Of those polled, 198, or 66 percent, said biosimilars will not force a dramatic increase of existing prescription drugs, but 34 percent disagreed. Earlier this month Novartis launched Zarxio, the first biosimilar in the United States. The drug has a price point 15 percent below Amgen’s Neupogen.

Lastly, readers were more evenly split on price increases for older drugs that receive new patents due to a differentiation. Slightly more than half, 54 percent, or 163 readers, said price increases due to new patents were justified, while 46 percent said such an increase is not justified.

The vast majority of the poll respondents, 88 percent, were from the United States, with the next largest group listed as unknown at 5 percent. Respondents from the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and Canada were all tied at 1 percent. The poll also saw respondents from India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil and Ireland.

Of the 266 U.S. respondents, the majority, 72, were from California, 30 were from Massachusetts, 23 from New Jersey, 22 from New York and 11 were from Georgia. Those U.S. respondents represented 38 states.