The company that hiked the price of its AIDS and cancer drug by 5,000 percent is facing something that could be even more damaging than public backlash: a competitor with an alternative drug that costs only $1 per pill.
The new drug by Imprimis Pharmaceuticals has been dubbed an alternative to Daraprim, which is currently produced by Turing Pharmaceuticals and recently saw its price hiked to $750 per pill – a 5,000 percent increase from its original price of $13.50. The company has faced severe backlash over the move.
“Today, some drug prices are simply out of control and we believe we may be able to help control costs by offering compounded alternatives to several sole source legacy generic drugs,” Imprimis CEO Mark Baum said referring to Turing’s price spike in a statement announcing the new drug.
According to Imprimis, the new drug is a compounded and customizable combination of the active ingredient in Daraprim, called pyrimethamine, and leucovorin, which helps “reverse negative effects on bone marrow caused by” the first ingredient. The drug may not be perfect for every patient using Daraprim, but the company said it could be a good fit for those needing a solution not available on the commercial market.
Most notable is the price, since Imprimis’ drug can be purchased for $99 per 100-pill bottle, or at a per-pill cost of under $1.
Since it is compounded, the drug is not subject to the strict regulations of the Food and Drug Administration. However, it will not bear an FDA-approved label for recommended use. It must be prescribed by a doctor for a specifically identified patient.
Imprimis specifically highlighted Turing’s high price for Daraprim, saying there could be better options for patients who can’t afford it.
“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications such as Daraprim for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider,” Baum said in a statement.
Additionally, the company has announced a new program called Imprimis Cares, promising that it will work towards making sure there are cheaper versions of 7,800 FDA-approved drugs.
For its part, Turing has argued that the price hike was necessary for the company to continue researching the disease the drug is aimed at fighting, toxoplasmosis. The illness, which affects many cancer and AIDS patients, is one of the most dangerous foodborne diseases.
Since being subject to public uproar, Turing has stated that it would bring the price of Daraprim down. However, it’s still unclear when or by how much that will happen.