- On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted out her plans to implement a drug price-control proposal in reaction to a bombshell report that Turing Pharma had hiked the price of a 62-year-old drug by 5,000%, likely leading to a 4.7% drop in the Nasdaq Biotech Index. Rival candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (who has already released his own pharma price control plan) also condemned Turing and its CEO, Martin Shkreli.
- "Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous," Clinton wrote in a tweet on Monday morning in reference to the news about Daraprim. "Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on."
- Clinton released details of her plan (which she had already said she would release before the Turing debacle) on Tuesday, and it includes a provision in which the period of exclusivity for a drug would be decreased from the current 12 years to seven years.
- Clinton also wants to force drug companies to set aside a portion of their revenues to fuel R&D and institute a monthly out-of-pocket prescription drug cap for sick Americans and those with chronic illnesses.
The decision of Turing's CEO, Martin Shkreli, to increase the price of Daraprim by 5,000% to $750 has set off a firestorm of contentious debates about the rapidly rising prices of certain drugs. Part of this debate involves the vagaries and complexities of healthcare drug pricing and drug-pricing regulation.
According to Shkreli, treating toxoplasmosis with Daraprim is a short-term, $50,000 life-saving measure. But on the other side of this argument, people like Dr. Joel Gallant, who was formerly chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, has made the point that treating immunocompromised individuals with Daraprim is a consideraby longer term therapeutic necessity for many patients.
In response to the ongoing controversy, the main biotech trade group, BIO, issued a statement which appears quite neutral and non-committal at first glance. Its press release on the issue reads as follows:
"As a general policy, BIO does not comment on matters related to individual company products or product pricing decisions, such as today's news about Turing Pharmaceuticals. That said, the focus of the biotechnology industry is to develop innovative therapies and cures for patients. This means it is imperative not only that we develop these new medicines, but that all patients have access to them, as necessary to meet their healthcare needs. This principle should apply to old medicines as much as to the new."
These issues are heating up as individual scenarios continue to highlight what many, including doctors, patient groups, and insurers, consider outrageous price-gouging. Nonetheless, there is always the other side, including the fact that it costs roughly $1 billion to develop a drug from bench to bedside, according to certain estimates.
Some of Clinton's proposals could potentially come to pass. But given the dyanmics of the interaction between a possible Democratic president in 2016 and a (likely) largely Republican Congress, that kind of action could be at least five years away.