Turing Pharmaceuticals moves to sudden price hike of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim

Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim (pyrimethamine), whose US marketing rights it recently acquired from Impax Laboratories, to $750 a tablet from $13.50 previously. The drug, which was first approved by the FDA in 1953, is indicated for the treatment of toxoplasmosis in combination with the antibiotic sulfadiazine, and is also used to treat malaria. Turing CEO Martin Shkreli defended the company's decision, saying the price is in line with those of other drugs used infrequently to treat rare conditions.

"This isn't the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business," Shkreli remarked. The executive argued that the decision will have a minimal effect on the healthcare system because of the rare use of Daraprim, while he indicated the company will use the funds it generates to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis with fewer side effects.

Commenting on the news, Judith Aberg, chief of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, questioned what Turing is "doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase." She also suggested that the decision could force hospitals to rely on "alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy." Meanwhile, in a joint letter, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association described the price increase as "unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population" and "unsustainable for the healthcare system."

Meanwhile, Rodelis Therapeutics, which had recently raised the price of its multidrug-resistant tuberculosis drug cycloserine from $500 per package of 30 tablets to $10 800 after it acquired the therapy, said Monday that it will return the drug to its previous owner, a non-profit manufacturing organisation affiliated with Purdue University. Dan Hasler, president of the Purdue Research Foundation, which has oversight of the manufacturing operation, said "we discovered literally [last week] the strategy that had been undertaken" by Rodelis, adding that "we said this was not what we had intended." The foundation now will charge $1050 per 30-tablet pack, an increase Hasler said was needed to stem losses on the drug.

In August, US lawmakers asked Valeant Pharmaceuticals to explain the large price increases for its hypertension treatment Nitropress (nitroprusside) and arrhythmia therapy Isuprel (isoproterenol) after acquiring the drugs from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February.

For further analysis, read Spotlight On: Shkreli’s Turing risks ceding ground in public policy debate on drug pricing.

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