Turing Pharmaceuticals – and controversial CEO Martin Shkreli – stirred up the drug pricing debate earlier this year when they raised the price of a decades-old antiparasitic medication by over 5,000 percent. Though the company later recanted the price increase, they have now released a statement saying they won’t be reconsidering the cost of drug – sold as Daraprim – but will be willing to negotiate discounts on the medication with hospitals.
According to a statement released by Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, “A reduction in Daraprim’s list price would not translate into a benefit for patients.” Turing Pharmaceuticals said they could discount the drug for hospital use by up to 50 percent.
The current statement goes against one released by Shkreli in September, in which he stated the price hike on Durapram would be reconsidered. Following disapproval from both the public and lawmakers, Shkreli told ABC News, “We have agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable.”
The drug pricing controversy began after Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim – used to treat toxoplasmosis infection – in August of this year. Shkreli immediately raised the cost of the drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill, representing a 5,000 percent price increase. Taking the company’s hospital discount offer into account, the treatment will still cost $375 a pill.
“A 50 percent reduction after a 5,000 percent price increase still makes this an extremely expensive drug, and still prevents most hospitals from keeping it in stock,” said HIV researcher Joel Gallant, medical director of specialty services at Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Southwest CARE Center. “Suffice it to say that this announcement doesn’t satisfy anyone.”
The statement released by Turing also outlined the company’s plans to provide free samples of Daraprim to select healthcare providers, and supply smaller bottles of the drug to hospitals in an effort to make stocking the drug more financial feasible. Turing also has programs in place designed to reduce patients’ co-pays to below $10.
There is some truth in Retzlaff’s comment about a drug’s list price; the list price isn’t always what a patient will pay because insurers often exercise their right to negotiate discounts on pharmaceuticals, based on whether a competing treatment or generic form of the drug are available. Though Daraprim was approved in 1953, there are no generic forms of the drug available in the US.
“Physicians, patients, hospitals, and patient advocacy groups have told us time and time again that we need to keep patients’ out-of-pocket costs low, have patient assistance programs in place and ensure hospitals can afford to stock Daraprim for treatment of the most vulnerable patients,” said Retlaff. “By providing affordable access for hospitals and reaffirming our commitment that nearly all patients will receive Daraprim for $10 or less out-of-pocket per prescription, that’s what we have done,” It’s unclear whether insurers will be able to take advantage of the discounts available for Daraprim, as well as how many hospitals will be able to pay the reduced rate.
- Drugmaker Turing Suggests It Won’t Cut List Price of Daraprim – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-24/drugmaker-turing-suggests-it-won-t-cut-list-price-of-daraprim
- Turing Reduces Cost of Daraprim® (pyrimethamine) – http://www.turingpharma.com/media/press-release?headline=turing-reduces-cost-of-daraprim%2526reg%253b-%28pyrimethamine%29%250d%250a