Competitor Steps In To Offer Toxoplasmosis Drug For $749 Less Per Pill Than Martin Shkreli And Turing Pharma

from the so-much-for-the-'it's-only-profitable-if...'-argument dept

When Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price of a toxoplasmosis-fighting drug (commonly used by AIDS and cancer patients) to $750/pill (a previous company sold it for $1/pill), CEO Martin Shkreli defended the move, saying the money would be dumped into research for a new and better drug. Of course, this is the usual defense offered by any pharmaceutical company that institutes a rate hike, but these claims are rarely followed through on. (And when they are, the R&D costs tend to be very overstated.)

Daraprim has been on the market since the 1950s and does its job well. The patent has long expired but the FDA’s policies make it difficult for anyone to formulate a generic version of this “sole supplier” drug. When there’s no competition, it’s a seller’s market, and Martin Shkreli is making the most of it.

This pirce hike set off a wave of backlash that included several presidential candidates. So, Shkreli hit the airwaves, promising to walk back the price to something more reasonable, whenever he got around to it. What he considered “reasonable” was never explicitly stated and, to date, the price has yet to come down. Now, another company is stepping in to offer patients something much more affordable. (via MetaFilter)

Turing CEO Martin Shkreli became “the most hated man in America” last month after raising the cost of the drug, commonly used to treat parasitic infections in immunocompromised patients, from $13.50 per pill to a staggering $750 per dose, claiming the company’s exorbitant price hike was justified. Now Imprimis will offer their alternative to those who need Daraprim for less than $1 per tablet.

There are some caveats. The drug isn’t exactly identical to Daraprim.

Imprimis is now offering customizable compounded formulations of pyrimethamine and leucovorin in oral capsules starting as low as $99.00 for a 100 count bottle, or at a cost of under a dollar per capsule. Compounded medications may be appropriate for prescription when a commercially-available medicine does not meet the specific needs of a patient.

There’s more detail in the disclaimer towards the end of the press release.

Imprimis’ finished compounded drug formulations do not have an FDA-approval label for recommended use. Imprimis compounded formulations are not FDA approved and may only be prescribed pursuant to a physician prescription for an individually identified patient consistent with federal and state laws governing compounded drug formulations.

So, those looking for a cheaper variant of Daraprim will have to find a physician willing to prescribe a drug that doesn’t have the FDA’s blessing for this particular use. The compound will likely work as well as Daraprim, but it does open doctors up to additional liability. That being said, some doctors may be willing to do this as the only other option for some patients will be no medicine at all.

The other problem is that the FDA could come down aggressively on pharmaceutical companies who market drugs for non-FDA-approved purposes. Imprimis is exploiting a loophole in the system, albeit one much more easily closed than the FDA’s loophole-esque sheltering of “sole supplier,” off-patent drugs — the sort that most often see astronomical price hikes post-acquisition.

But for now, it’s the market system at work — the same market system Shkreli used as a justification for raising Daraprim’s price. Zero competition led to Turing’s $750/pill price. A little competition might push Shkreli to drop Daraprim’s retail price lower than he actually wanted to. (And, again, no price drop has been instituted at this point.) But given Shkreli’s past use of the FDA as his unofficial partner in stock-shorting moves, it’s far more likely he’ll be asking the agency to eject his new competitor from the playing field.

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Companies: imprimis, turing pharmaceuticals

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Comments on “Competitor Steps In To Offer Toxoplasmosis Drug For $749 Less Per Pill Than Martin Shkreli And Turing Pharma”

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Chris Brand says:

Re: Re: Old price is wrong

It’s even there later in the same article : “Turing CEO Martin Shkreli [raised] the cost of the drug […] from $13.50 per pill to a staggering $750 per dose”.

Of course it’s possible that it was sold at some point for $1/pill, but there’s no evidence provided for that, so it seems to be an error.

Anonymous Coward says:

“But given Shkreli’s past use of the FDA as his unofficial partner in stock-shorting moves, it’s far more likely he’ll be asking the agency to eject his new competitor from the playing field.”

If this should happen then someone will have to be all stupid to open an investigation regarding the conduct of FDA’s involvement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Never liked these "sole-source" rules

The same thing happened to thalidomide as an orphaned drug. Thalidomide costs pennies, but a drug company discovered it works as an anti-cancer drug, licensed it as an orphaned drug, and suddenly they have cornered the market on an out-of-patent drug as $50 a pop.

These “sole-source” and orphaned-drug rules need to quick a quick death. Alternatively, Americans should be allowed to shop pharmacies outside of the United States. Just because Medicare will pay for it, doesn’t mean it should.

One way to fix this is to set a set price for reimbursement through Medicare. In this case, maybe $3 per pill, say. Any drug company that accepts Federal dollars would have to accept that as *PAYMENT IN FULL*, except for any required co-pays.

This way, a company can charge whatever it wants (and refuse any Medicare reimbursement), or be required to accept a fair rate to keep receiving tax-payer funded money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Never liked these "sole-source" rules

Your idea sounds good… but the corporate sovereignty portions of existing and in-progress trade agreements have already been ruled on this idea as unfair to the corporations. So if the US did this, they’d be forced to repeal it as well as pay the drug company’s legal bills.

And yet countries are STILL angling for ratifying these treaties. o_O

Jon Snow (profile) says:

The real problem here is that my asthma inhaler, which used to cost $9 without insurance a few years ago, now costs $40 with insurance. I have no idea how much it really is. I can afford it but I’m sure lots of people can’t.

While this guy is causing a much needed light to shine on this issue, the real problem is the rest of the pharmaceutical industry which has been doing the same thing for a long time, just a bit less spectacularly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As one weasel-move among many, large pharma companies are buying up all the generic manufacturers they can (globally), so that they effectively become sole suppliers of both the name-brand as well as the generic versions of particular medications.

Teva, for example, bought up most of the generic producers of tetracycline during a shortage of the drug. (The origin of this conveniently timed shortage is another story in itself.) Teva was suddenly able to easily satisfy demand once they could charge $250/pop rather than the previous $1.50.

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