As is well-known by now, one of the side effects of Daraprim, a medication needed by many AIDS and cancer patients, is uncontrollable rage — not because of any chemical properties of the drug itself, but because Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price by more than 5,000 percent immediately after purchasing the rights to the medication. Until Shkreli’s greed caused the price to very quickly inflate, the lifesaving pill, which has been on the market longer than Shkreli has been alive, sold for just $13.50 per pill.
Shkreli provided numerous excuses for the price increase, the unfairness of which made headlines for weeks after the rather transparent attempt to effectively hold patients at gunpoint and rob them blind. While “Pharma Bro” ultimately promised to lower prices to an undefined amount at an unspecified point in time — something that has still not happened — another company has taken it upon themselves to completely embarrass the former hedge funder, who described the price increase as necessary.
San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc announced on Thursday that it will be providing an alternative to Daraprim that costs a fraction of the pill’s pre-Shkreli price. The drug will be sold at as low as $99 for a 100-pill supply. Yes, that’s just about a dollar per pill.
“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,” Imprimis CEO Mark L. Baum said in a press release. ARS Technica points out Imprimis’ alternative is not the same as Daraprim, but it is close:
“Daraprim’s active ingredient is pyrimethamine, which has been available since 1953 for the treatment of parasitic diseases (namely malaria and toxoplasmosis). Imprimis’ alternative also contains pyrimethamine as well as leucovorin, which the company said helps to reverse pyrimethamine’s negative effects on bone marrow.
Until now, Turing was the sole producer of a pyrimethamine-based drug, which is often prescribed to patients with compromised immune systems such as those suffering from AIDS and cancer.”
“This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug – especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim – has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable,” Baum said. ” 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.” He added:
“Today, some drug prices are simply out of control and we believe we may be able to help control costs by offering compounded alternatives to several sole source legacy generic drugs. Imprimis Cares and its team of compounding pharmacists will work with physicians and their patients to ensure they have affordable access to the medicines they need from the over 7,800 generic FDA-approved drugs. Imprimis Cares, available in all 50 states, will work with all third party insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and buying groups to offer its patient specific customizable compounded drug formulations at prices that ensure accessibility and that provide a reasonable profit for Imprimis. We are here to serve our patients and their physicians. We believe that when we do a great job serving our customers, our shareholders will also benefit.”
Recently, Shkreli attempted to bribe Bernie Sanders to meet with him so the Turing CEO could attempt to justify the need for the massive price hike of Daraprim, even throwing a well-publicized tantrum when Sanders gave his campaign donation away to charity. Of course, that meeting is no longer necessary, as Imprimis is doing a very good job of showing that a drug company can turn a profit while still providing patients with lower-cost medication.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.