US drug firm that raised price of pill more than 5,000% to $1,000 says it will roll back increase

Turing chief executive Martin Shkreli became the new face of the United States drug pricing controversy this week, after the New York Times reported that the company had raised the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old treatment for a dangerous parasitic
Turing chief executive Martin Shkreli became the new face of the United States drug pricing controversy this week, after the New York Times reported that the company had raised the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old treatment for a dangerous parasitic infection, to US$750 (S$1,064) a pill from US$13.50 after acquiring it. The story sparked outrage among patients, medical societies and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (Bloomberg/Reuters) - Turing Pharmaceuticals, a small company that generated outrage over raising the cost of an old anti-infective drug by more than 5,000 per cent, said on Tuesday (Sept 22) it would roll back that increase to make sure it remains affordable.

Turing and its chief executive Martin Shkreli became the new face of the United States drug pricing controversy this week, after the New York Times reported that the company had raised the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old treatment for a dangerous parasitic infection, to US$750 (S$1,064) a pill from US$13.50 after acquiring it.

The medicine once sold for US$1 a pill.

The story sparked outrage among patients, medical societies and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

"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, and we think these changes will be welcome," Mr Shkreli told ABC World News Tonight. The final cost was still being determined, but would be less than US$750 per pill.

Turing acquired Daraprim an older antibiotic drug, in August and soon after that raised the price to US$750 a pill.

Patients typically take the drug, which treats the parasite-caused disease toxoplasmosis, for at least several weeks, at what Mr Shkreli said was about a US$50,000 cost. Some may need it for longer.

In an interview on CNBC on Monday, an unapologetic Mr Shkreli said that Daraprim had been priced too low and that his company needed to generate profits that it would spend on new research and development.

He also called it a bargain even at the higher price.

Asked if he would lower the price in response to the furor, Mr Shkreli simply responded, "No."

Mr Shkreli was criticised by Mrs Clinton on Monday (Sept 21), as she called the price hike "outrageous" on Twitter and responded with a proposal to cap consumer spending on drugs.

Mrs Clinton's tweet caused the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index to slide, losing more than US$40 billion in market value on Monday.

Mrs Clinton responded to Mr Shkreli's announcement on Tuesday with a single-word tweet: "Good."

Earlier on Tuesday, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pharmaceutical industry's main lobbying group, sought to distance itself from Turing's move, posting on Twitter that the drugmaker "does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies".

Asked for further details, the lobby group noted that Turing is not one of its members, which include global drugmakers such as Merck & Co, Pfizer and Novartis.

"PhRMA members have a long history of drug discovery and innovation that has led to increased longevity and improved lives for millions of patients," the group said in a statement."Turing Pharmaceutical is not a member of PhRMA and we do not embrace either their recent actions or the conduct of their CEO."

PhRMA member companies have made similar arguments on the need to price new drugs high enough to ensure that they have enough to cover their R&D investments.