Drug company backs down after price-hike backlash

  • 23/09/2015
Drug company backs down after price-hike backlash

A US drug company is under fire after bumping up the cost of a medicine by 5000 percent - and it could hit Kiwi AIDS patients in the pocket.

After a massive international backlash, however, it appears the company may now lower the price.

Daraprim has been used for over 60 years, and treats toxoplasmosis in people with compromised immune systems.

Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the drug last month and has now increased the price of a pill from US$13.50 to US$750.

It is not widely used in New Zealand, last year just 12 Kiwis were prescribed Daraprim under Special Authority.

It's currently subsidised, costing $26 for a packet of 30 tablets, but Pharmac says if the cost went up it wouldn't reimburse the higher price - so it would fall on the shoulders of patients to fund it.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has weighed in on the debate, tweeting "Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I'll lay out a plan to take it on".

Turing CEO Martin Shkreli initially defended the price hike saying that the profits will help create better medicines in the future.

"This isn't the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business," he told the New York Times, which broke the story, earlier this week.

He said the company would invest the extra money it earned from the higher prices in developing better drugs to fight toxoplasmosis.

Today, however, Mr Shkreli said the company would substantially lower the price.

"We've agreed to lower the price on Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit," he told ABC News. "We think these changes will be welcomed."

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