50 times drug price hike in one day

Daraprim has been on the market for more than 60 years and is used to treat a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection attacking primarily immune comprised people, like HIV infected people. It is a old drug and was $18 a pill. But when Turing Pharmaceuticals, a startup, bought the the drug in August, fate of the drug suddenly changed. Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of the drug by 5,000%, to $750 a pill. Turing Pharmaceuticals is headed by 31 year old CEO, Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manger. In an interview with Bloomberg Martin Shkreli explained that they “need to turn a profit on the drug. Defying criticism, it is reported that Turing Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Martin Shkreli said, “price hike is ‘altruistic,’ not greedy.”

Of course this patient-ignoring move gathered a huge public cry. Hillary Clinton jumped on wrote, “Did you see the outcry last week about the former hedge fund manager who bought up drug patents, then raised the price of medicine for AIDS patients by more than 5000%? He still hasn’t said how much the drug will cost going forward, and in the meantime, sick patients still have to wait and worry and continue to pay $750/pill. So Mr. Shkreli, what’s it going to be? Do the right thing. Lower the cost today to its original price.” 

In turned out however, drug price hike of old drugs is not a unique event. These are some examples:

  • Doxycycline (antibiotics) from $20 to $1,849 per bottle
  • Isuprel (blood pressure medicine) from $215 to $1,346 per vial
  • Cycloserine (antibiotics) from $500 to $10,800 per 30 capsules

These price hikes are done primarily by new owners when the owner purchase the right.

On a different note, the Food and Drug Administration try a program called, Priority Review Vouchers (PRVs) to promote a drug development to treat neglected diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, chistomiasis, and yaws. In 2012, PRVs were also made available to develop a drug to treat a rare pediatric diseases such as genetic diseases and cancers. Even with some success in assisting FDA approval process for rare or neglected diseases, it is undeniable the these drugs are very expensive (elosulfase, a drug for a enzyme deficiency disease, costs $380,000 per year). Researchers from Harvard Medical School published about this at JAMA.

Is this right? What should we do as a society? What would you as a family member when your brother or sister suddenly need to pay more than 50 times for the drug he or she used until yesterday?

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