Back in September, news broke that a CEO by the name of Martin Shrkeli had raised the price of a 62-year-old generic drug, Daraprim, from $13.50 to a whopping $750 a capsule overnight, leading to widespread shock and outrage. (The drug is often prescribed to AIDS and cancer patients.) Well now, it seems this devilish tale has a hero: A San Diego-based biomedical company announced yesterday that they will offer a comparable drug for around $1 per pill.
The company, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, plans to supply pills containing Daraprim’s active ingredients, pyrimethamine and leucovorin, in 100-capsule bottles on their website for as low as $99.
They are able to do this because Imprimis is a drug compounder, meaning the company makes specific formulations of drugs tailored to individual needs of patients. The company's CEO, Mark Baum, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that this formulation isn't FDA-approved, only the ingredients are, so it can only be sold through a doctor's prescription and made for a specific individual. This work-around is what allows the company to keep the costs low.
Imprimis also announced they won't limit their efforts to an affordable Daraprim, they also plan to compete with other manufacturers who have significantly spiked the cost of their drug prices, Baum told The Associated Press.
"In response to this recent case and others that we will soon identify, Imprimis is forming a new program called Imprimis Cares which is aligned to our corporate mission of making novel and customizable medicines available to physicians and patients today at accessible prices," Baum said in a press release about the announcement.
"We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up," Baum explained to the AP. He predicts there will be a surge of these compounded drugs in the near future as a way to rein in drug prices.
After all, Turing Pharmaceuticals isn’t the only company to drastically spike the cost of generic drugs in the past year. As Health and other outlets have reported, other companies have become well known for similar practices. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, for example, bought the rights to two heart drugs Isuprel and Nitropress back in February and then immediately hiked the list prices by 500% and 200% respectively.
But Turing Pharmeceuticals continues to demonstrate one of the most obscene price-spikes ever seen in the industry at a whopping 5,000%. So it's not surprising that the CEO of the company, Martin Shkreli, has received a lot of backlash in the past few months.
On Twitter, Shreki refuted criticism by saying "We spend more than 50% of our revenue on R&D. Please get your facts straight before lumping us in with others."
Fortunately, other companies like Imprimis are trying to make necessary drugs like Daraprim more affordable for the public.
"While we respect Turing's right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim, for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider," Imprimis CEO Mark Baum added said in the press release.
Shkreli mentioned last month that he plans to lower the cost of Daraprim. But the new price remains unknown.