Turing promises to cut Daraprim price by year's end, if only partially

Turing CEO Martin Shkreli

Turing Pharmaceuticals has faced a firestorm of criticism since jacking up the price of its toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim by more than 5000%, with lawmakers, presidential hopefuls and the public calling for the company to bring down the med's sky-high price. Now Turing says it will lower Daraprim's price by the end of the year and will lay out measures to make the drug more affordable to patients.

The company is keeping quiet about exactly how much it's lowering its price for Daraprim. But in an interview with HIV activist Josh Robbins, Turing CEO Martin Shkreli said that he will reduce the drug's price a "modest" amount, or about 10%, by Thanksgiving or at the latest, Christmas. Turing will also offer sizable discounts of about 25% to 50% to smaller hospitals that can't afford to stock the drug and will come out with a smaller bottle with fewer pills to lower stocking costs, he said.

Even at the highest level, those discounts leave Daraprim at least 20 times more costly than it was when Turing bought the drug. A 10% discount would put Daraprim's list price at $675 per pill, up from $13.50 just a few months ago.

Turing also met with critics this week in Washington, DC, many of whom had signed an open letter to the company last month urging it to bring down its prices, The New York Times reports. In September, Turing said that it would bring down the price for Daraprim, responding to growing backlash over its decision to buy the drug and hike that $13.50 price to $750 a pill.

"Since acquiring Daraprim three months ago, our top priority has been to ensure that patients who need Daraprim have ready, affordable access to it," Turing said in a letter given to the groups it met earlier this week, as quoted by the NYT. The company is planning to expand its patient assistance program to offer Daraprim free to people with incomes within 500% of the federal poverty level. A program by the drug's previous owner only covered individuals up to 200% of the federal poverty level, the NYT reports.

But the letter did not provide many details about how Turing would bring down Daraprim's price, leaving some wondering about the company's game plan. "We don't have any concrete understanding of the revised price or changes to patient assistance programs," Sean Dickson, manager for healthcare access at the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, told the NYT.

And Turing's pledge is unlikely to appease lawmakers, who are taking the company to task for its dramatic price hike on Daraprim. Earlier this week, the new Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force led by Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform pledged "meaningful action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals." The House Committee on Oversight and Government is also pushing to have Shkreli and Valeant ($VRX) CEO J. Michael Pearson subpoenaed to reveal information on drug price increases.

Sen. Claire McCaskill

The Senate is also joining the growing chorus of discontent, with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) leading a probe from the Senate Special Committee on Aging that will look into "dramatic increases" in prices from companies such as Turing and Valeant that "looked like little more than price-gouging."

"We need to get to the bottom of why we're seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs," McCaskill said.

One company has already stepped forward with a price-friendly alternative to Daraprim. Last month, compounding pharmacy Imprimis ($IMMY) said it would offer a compounded drug that includes Daraprim's active ingredient, pyrimethamine, in capsules for $99 for a 100-count bottle. The San Diego, CA-based company is also launching a program to work with payers, pharmacy benefit managers and purchasing groups to offer formulations tailored to patients "at prices that ensure accessibility."

- here's the Shkreli interview with Robbins
- read the NYT story (sub. req.)

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