US drug firm to lower price of Daraprim after controversy | News | DW | 23.09.2015
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US drug firm to lower price of Daraprim after controversy

The US pharmaceutical company that hiked the price of a drug used in HIV/AIDS and cancer treatment by 50 fold has said it will lower the price. The price increase prompted a backlash against "Big Pharma."

The CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, has said in an interview that his company would lower the price of the lifesaving drug Daraprim after a price increase from $13.50 to $750 (12 to 673 euros) per pill sparked outrage at the pharmaceutical sector and rising healthcare costs in the US.

"We've agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit," Shkreli told ABC News on Tuesday.

The company did not specify how much the price of the drug would be reduced, but on Monday Shkreli had defended the price increase as a way to increase profits and reinvest in the research and development of newer, more effective drugs.

In August, the company obtained the sole right to produce and market Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug used to fight toxoplasmosis, a food-borne disease that infects HIV/AIDS and cancer patients with weakened immune systems.

The case of Daraprim is the latest in a series of sudden price increases of older drugs bought up by pharmaceutical companies. On Monday, the non-profit Purdue Research Foundation reacquired the right to Cycloserine, a drug used to treat drug resistant tuberculosis, after the pharmaceutical company Rodelis Therapeutics said after acquiring the rights to the drug that it would increase the price of treatment 20 fold.

That would have meant a standard treatment using the tuberculosis fighting drug would have cost patients some $500,000 (448,793 euros).

Backlash Against Price Gouging

The rapid price increase of a little-known drug has turned it into the center of a major political debate in the US, as the public backlash prompted politicians to refocus on healthcare ahead of a presidential election in 2016.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who described the increase as "price gouging," used the controversy to unveil in Iowa on Tuesday a plan to cap out- of -pocket prescription drug expenditures at $250 for Medicare, the US health insurance program for people over 65 years old.

Clinton also vowed to force drug companies to invest a certain portion of their profits in research, and allow US made prescription drugs sold for less in other countries to be purchased by Americans, similar to a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders.

The controversy comes as prescription drug prices have risen more than 12 percent in the past year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The US has some of the highest prescription drug prices in the world.

cw/rg (AFP, AP, Reuters)