UPDATE: Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego-based company, is now offering a compounded version of Daraprim for $1 a pill, severely undercutting the $750 per dose price that Turing CEO Martin Shkreli said he would charge for Daraprim. Imprimis CEO Mark Baum said, "While we respect Turing's right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim, for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider."
This story was originally published on September 21, 2015
It's a tough, cold world out there, but one hedge fund bro is here to make a difference — a price difference. This is not a good thing: After Martin Shkreli's startup, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired an important parasite-fighting drug, the cost has surged from $13.50 per pill to a whopping $750 per pill, reports The New York Times. The drug, Daraprim (pyrimethamine), is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that's particularly serious for those with compromised immune systems. Although most healthy people who get this infection recover fully with treatment (and may never have symptoms), those who are vulnerable can experience seizures, lung issues, and even death if the toxoplasmosis is left untreated. These at-risk populations include pregnant women, people with cancer, and those with HIV. While there are other drugs out there to fight toxoplasmosis, Daraprim has become the go-to.
Although medications routinely go up in price — cancer drugs have been continually rising for the past two decades — this is quite a jump all at once. If you're already enraged, Mashable says you're not alone. The rest of the internet is already rallying against Shkreli, the aforementioned Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO and certified hedge fund bro. (But what did he really expect when he tweeted Eminem lyrics?) The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association have already sent a letter protesting the change. They write that, depending on a patient's weight, the Daraprim component of treatment could cost between $336,000 and $634,500. "This cost is unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population in need of this medication," the letter says, "and unsustainable for the health care system." However, Shkreli told Bloomberg that the price increase would help fund new research into making the drug more effective and with fewer side effects. So, this increase supposedly just keeps Daraprim in line with other drugs for similarly rare diseases — and incentivizes other companies to make cheaper versions. "These patients deserve a drug company that is turning a fair profit and developing a drug that's better for them," Shkreli continued. He also told Bloomberg that the drug's copay programs have been extended, minimizing the cost to the consumer. Still, if patients aren't paying, others in the chain are, which may make it difficult for hospitals to keep the drug in stock. And with a drug that's this cheap to produce (around a dollar per pill, according to The Times), that price hike has got to come with a serious moral toll.