Elizabeth Gough-Gordon, digital content editor for eMPR, published an article on Oct. 23, 2105 titled “Daraprim Alternative Announced in Response to Price Hike”. Turing Pharmaceuticals made global news when it increased the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to approximately $750 per pill in the U.S. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis that occurs in many immune suppressed patients that have been treated for HIV, had organ transplants, or came in contact with infected felines that were infected with a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is especially serious for fetuses of pregnant women that have contracted the disease early in pregnancy.
Imprimus Pharmaceuticals created a new compounded product that combined pyrimethamine, the active ingredient in Daraprim, with another ingredient, leucovorin, to create an alternative solution to treating toxoplasmosis. Imprimus priced their compounded product at $99.99 for 100 tablets. Turing has now announced it is lowering the pricing on Daraprim, but has not stated the new price. The eMPR article provided this quote from Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis, regarding propagation of this substitute drug solution.
(Baum) stated that the company will work with clinicians, patients, third-party insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and buying groups on patient-specific customization of compounded drug formulations at accessible prices.
More information can be found regarding the sources and consequences on health of toxoplasmosis from the Mayo Clinic. Staff members of the Mayo Clinic wrote a detailed article on Toxoplasmosis. It will be significant to immune suppressed patients and pregnant mothers that may have been exposed to the feces of infected cats. The health consequences are most severe when pregnant mothers pass the disease to their baby. If there is any consideration that a pregnant mother has been exposed to toxoplasmosis, the Obgyn doctor should be consulted regarding testing.
The exorbitant pricing that Turing Pharmaceuticals exhibited is not unique. Gilead Sciences introduced two Hepatitis C drugs at a cost of $1,000 per pill, with a treatment cycle costing $95,500 for one and $84,000 for the other. The estimated costs of each Hep C pill is less than $1.00 to manufacture. In order for the free market to work in drug pricing, competition must be encouraged. Where the government is involved in paying for research, the cost of the resulting drugs should be adjusted to reflect that research contribution. The exorbitant drug costs are threatening to bankrupt Medicare, and drive health insurance costs up for all subscribers to cover the drug costs that average $10,000 a month for cancer patients, and can go over $200,000 to $300,000 per year for a few limited numbers of diseases.
Competition in pricing and development of alternative drugs for the highest cost drugs needs to be encouraged. Where compounders can reformulate solutions as Imprimus did for treating toxoplasmosis, that approach should be encouraged throughout the drug industry. The FDA should enforce the “post marketing” studies to show that drugs are working, and to decertify those drugs that do not produce documented end point results. These actions will help capitalism work for the patients and insurance companies to lower drug costs.