Martin Shkreli, former hedge fund manager now turned chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who is also known as the ‘Pharma Bro’ for its nonchalant attitude towards criticism over his 5,000 percent drug price hike in September, seems to backpedal on a recent promise to lower the drug’s price.
After a national outcry and online backlash over boosting the price of Daraprim, a HIV-treating drug, from $13.50 to $750 in a matter of weeks after buying it from its maker, Shkreli announced that he would cut the drug’s price. Still, he didn’t disclose by how much.
But on Tuesday, he said that the price would remain the same but hospitals would benefit from special deals and a more convenient packaging. The company announced that hospitals would be charged by up to 50 percent less.
Additionally, patients won’t have to take out-of-pocket more than $10 every month for the drug, but this doesn’t also go for their health insures who will have to cover for the rest of $740. As a result, insurance costs may skyrocket.
Daraprim is crucial for HIV and cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, because it can treat an infection called toxoplasmosis which affects people who have compromised immune systems. Toxoplasmosis is also dangerous enough to kill a baby within their mother’s womb.
Dr Carlos del Rio, a HIV patient advocate, deemed the company’s recent decision “window dressing.” He explained that patients do not need the drug just during their hospitalization; they also need to take it at home, so the discount for hospitals will not help them that much.
“This medication can be made for pennies. They need to reduce the price to what it was before,”
del Rio added.
On Wednesday, Turing’s chief marketing officer Nancy Retzlaff explained that now a rival company started marketing a generic version of Daraprim for ¢99 per pill which wasn’t taken into account in the company’s previous pricing strategy.
The company also announced that hospitals can now buy the drug in new 30-pill bottles rather than 100-pill which may help them save some money from stocks.
Turing bought the drug in August, when Daraprim was the only option available for patients. This was one of the drivers behind the abrupt September price hike that sparked national outrage and multiple government investigations. Presidential hopefuls and members of Congress also pledged to take action against big pharmas’ vile pricing strategies.
A study which was published this week shows that between 2009 and 2015 some drug prices jumped by 60 percent to 1,700 percent, with an average 400 percent price increase.
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