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Turing to Drop Daraprim’s Price in Response to Criticism

Company had raised drug price from $13.50 to $740 in 24 hours

Turing Pharmaceuticals, a small pharmaceutical company that has come under fire for a more-than-50-fold hike in the price of a drug used to fight a parasitic infection, will cut the price by an as-yet-undetermined amount, the company’s founder and CEO says.

Daraprim (pyrimethamine) had cost $13.50 a tablet before Turing Pharmaceuticals AG bought the U.S. rights in August from Impax Laboratories Inc. and raised the price to $750. The increase, according to The Wall Street Journal, became a poster child for high drug prices, which have been attacked by drug-benefit managers and some Democrats.

For several days, privately held Turing and CEO Martin Shkreli had resisted criticism over Daraprim’s price hike, saying that the drug had been underpriced and that the higher returns would fund research into a new and better treatment. Shkreli had also lashed out at critics on social media. But he told NBC News September 22 that the company would lower the price in reaction to outrage over the increase.

"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. He did not say what the new price would be, but expected a determination to be made over the next few weeks.

The company also plans to announce other steps to make it easier for patients to obtain the drug, The Wall Street Journal reported. Turing already had offered to help subsidize out-of-pocket costs and provide the drug free to the uninsured.

Daraprim is a half-century-old drug used to treat an infection from the toxoplasma parasite that affects more than a million people a year in the U.S. It can be life-threatening in those who have weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women and patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The price hike was the latest example of how some drug companies are buying rights to medicines they view as underpriced and then charging significantly more, the subject of an article in April in The Wall Street Journal that prompted two Democrats in Congress to start an investigation. Daraprim’s higher price prompted an outcry from some patient advocates, especially those representing people infected by the HIV virus.

After an article in The New York Times on the price hike, Hillary Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, tweeted about “price gouging” and vowed to issue a plan for curbing high drug prices, which she did the next day. Analysts said the tweet contributed to a big drop in biotech company share prices.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal; September 22, 2015; NBC News, September 23, 2015.

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