UPDATE: Turing Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli gave an interview to NBC News on Tuesday evening saying that he'll backtrack on Daraprim's 5,000% price hike in response to massive public outcry and condemnations from some elements of the biopharma industry - but he did not specify how much the toxoplasmosis med's price would come down.
"Yes it is absolutely a reaction," Shkreli told NBC News of the course reversal. "There were mistakes made with respect to helping people understand why we took this action, I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people."
Shkreli said that a decision regarding Daraprim's new price would be made over the course of the next several weeks.
- After acquiring Daraprim (pyrimethamine) from Impax Labs in August, Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of the drug—which was approved 62 years ago, in 1953—from $13.50 to $750 per pill.
- Daraprim is used to treat malaria. It is also used to treat toxoplasmosis, a condition that sometimes affects pregnant women, but more commonly affects individuals with compromised immune systems, including HIV-infected patients, as well as those with cancer.
- There has been intense pushback against the price increase and Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager who has become an outspoken and often controversial voice in the biopharma industry. The Infectious Diseases Soceity of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month decrying the price increase as "unjustifiable."
This price increase comes in the context of a surge of increasing drug prices. Overall, the cost of brand-name drugs rose by 13% in 2013.
But that's not the worst of it. Many of the drugs that have risen the most are old drugs that are no longer branded. Two examples are the heart drugs Isuprel and Nitropress, which rose by 525% and 212%, respectively, last year after Valeant bought them from Marathon Pharmaceuticals. This price increase prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to send Valeant a letter questioning the price increases.
A key character in this unfolding price drama is Martin Shkreli, who is being sued by Retrophin for $65 million for allegedly mismanaging funds while he was CEO there. As CEO and founder of Turing, Shkreli's basic response to all of the blowback over the Daraprim price increase is that very few patients use the drug, so a high price won't make a huge difference overall to payers. Moreover, he points out that it's the cost of staying in business and that Turing plans to use the proceeds to invest in R&D for better toxoplasmosis drugs.
Unfortunately, that still doesn't solve the problem for the thousands of people who rely on the drug each year, and the hospitals that have to procure it. And Shkreli isn't known for having a particularly soft bedside manner when it comes to explaining his decision-making.