Turing and its controversial chief executive officer Martin Shkreli became the focus of a national discussion of drug pricing in August after it acquired Daraprim from IMPAX Laboratories, Inc. (IPKL) for $55 million. When acquired, the drug was priced for $13.50 per tablet. Turing increased the price to $750 per pill, an increase of about 5,000 percent.
The drug typically used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease, in patients with compromised immune systems, such as cancer and HIV patients, as well as pregnant women. The drug has been on the market for over 60 years.
In addition to the 50 percent price drop, the company will supply the drug in smaller bottles of 30 tablets, suggesting that will make it easier to stock the drug. It will also provide free samples of the drug to physicians so they can easily start therapy in emergency situations. All of these are to go into effect in early 2016.
A 50 percent cut to about $375 per pill isn’t likely to appease critics of the company or Shkreli. The drug is available in Europe for under $1 per pill.
On October 23, San Diego-based Imprimis Inc. (IMMY) announced that it had developed a compound of pyrimethamine and leucovorin as a low-cost alternative to Daraprim. It indicated the combination treatment will have a price tag of $99 for 100 tablets.
“It is indisputable that generic drug prices have soared recently,” said Imprimis’s chief executive officer, Mark Baum, in a statement at the time. “While we have seen an increase in costs associated with regulatory compliance, recent generic drug price increases have made us concerned and caused us to take positive action to address an opportunity to help a needy patient population.”
Last week, Martin Shkreli, who has provided a textbook case on how to damage a company’s reputation in the media for Turing, took over the chief executive officer job of South San Francisco-based KaloBios (KBIO).Shkreli and his investors bought up 70 percent of the company’s stock, which only recently had indicated it was shuttering its operations and liquidating its assets.
On Twitter, Shkreli said he was happy to rescue KaloBios from having to discontinue the blood cancer drug lenzilumab. He also said he wanted to see about hiring back some of the employees who had been terminated since KaloBios announced its plans to shutter.
Of today’s pricing change, Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement, “Combined with our robust patient access programs, this is an important step in our commitment to ensure ready access to Daraprim at the lowest possible out-of-pocket costs for both hospitals and patients. We pledge that no patient needing Daraprim will ever be denied access.”