22 Sep 2015

US drug company defends 5000% price rise

3:58 pm on 22 September 2015

The head of a US pharmaceutical company has defended his company's decision to raise the price of a 62-year-old medication used by AIDS patients by over 5000 percent.

white pills (generic)

The price per dose of Daraprim (not pictured) has increased from $US13.50 to $US750. Photo: 123RF

Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim in August.

CEO Martin Shkreli has said that the company will use the money it makes from sales to research new treatments.

The drug is used treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic affliction that affects people with compromised immune systems.

After Turing's acquisition, a dose of Daraprim in the US increased from $US13.50 to $US750.

The pill costs about $US1 to produce, but Mr Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager, said that does not include other costs like marketing and distribution.

"We needed to turn a profit on this drug," Mr Shkreli told Bloomberg TV. "The companies before us were just giving it away almost."

He said the company had expanded its free drug programme and made sure patients could get the drug faster.

"We will never deny someone treatment for their ability to pay. In fact, even if we're having a disagreement with the insurer, we'll send them the drug for free in the interim until we resolve that with the insurer."

On Twitter, Mr Shkreli mocked several users who questioned the company's decision to raise the drug's price, calling one reporter "a moron".

Cost 'unjustifiable'

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, the HIV Medicine Association and other health care providers wrote an open letter to Turning, urging the company to reconsider.

"This cost is unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population in need of this medication and unsustainable for the health care system," the groups wrote.

Dr Wendy Armstrong of HIV Medicine Association also disputed the need to develop new treatments for toxoplasmosis.

"This is not an infection where we have been looking for more effective drugs," she told Infectious Disease News.

On Wall Street, biotech shares fell sharply on Monday after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to take action against firms hiking prices for speciality drugs.

"Price gouging like this in the speciality drug market is outrageous," Mrs Clinton said, citing Daraprim.

- BBC / RNZ

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