Turing Pharmaceuticals decreasing Daraprim drug price after outrage

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Sept. 23, 2015 at 7:34 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, announced he will reduce the price for Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, after an earlier 5,000 percent price increase that generated mass criticism and accusations of drug-price gouging.

Shkreli, 32, told NBC News the new price would be determined in the coming weeks. He said lowering the price was a decision taken in reaction to the outrage over Daraprim's price surge.

In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim, which was first developed in 1953, from Impax Laboratories for $55 million. Turing immediately increased the price of the drug from $13.50 per pill to $750 each.

"Yes it is absolutely a reaction -- 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.

Daraprim, known generically as pyrimethamine, treats toxoplamosis, an infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, one of the world's most common parasites. The parasite can enter its host when people eat under-cooked meat or drink contaminated water.

Although toxoplamosis isn't considered dangerous in people who are generally healthy, for people who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, such as AIDS or cancer patients, the effects of the infection can be severe. Daraprim is also used to treat malaria.

"It's very easy to see a large drug price increase and say 'Gosh those people must be gouging,' but when you find out the company is not making any money, what does that mean?" Shkreli added. "It's very hard stuff to understand."

Infectious disease doctors and former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were among those who protested against the price surge.

"Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous," Clinton said in reference to Turing's actions.

Shkreli previously said Daraprim is so rarely used that the impact on the health system would be small. He also said Turing would use Daraprim profits to develop improved treatments for toxoplasmosis with fewer side effects.

Although initially fiercely defensive of the Daraprim price increase, Shkreli seemingly backed down of his stance.

"I think in the society we live in today it is easy to want to villainize people, and obviously we are in an election cycle where this is very tough topic for people and very sensitive. And I understand the outrage," Shkreli said.

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