In one of the most unethical moves of the last few years, the pharmaceutical company Turing is ending the race on cancer and AIDS by killing the very patients who used this medication.
The drug Daraprim has been used since 1953 and it was intended for treatment and prevention of malaria and toxoplasmosis, two infection caused by blood parasites, but it was also used to prevent several other infections. Today, they’re mostly used to fight toxoplasmosis, and boosting immune system activity and health in people who got reduced immunity. This medication is used by a wide range of patients suffering from several immunodeficiency disorders including AIDS, chemotherapy or even pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim in August for 55 million dollars. Shortly after that, they raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to up to $75,000 a month, and putting this medication on the Specialized Drug List that is not usually covered by any insurance provider. Even if insurance plans do cover the medication, a 20% co-payment would be needed, making each pill cost $150. This is way more money than the average Americans makes every day. Patients are now being forced into life altering decisions, as they need to choose between going broke or dying a painfully slow death.
Earlier this month the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association decided to send a joint letter to Turing, asking them to lower the prices, as they deemed them “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.” An organization representing the directors of state AIDS programs has also been looking into the price increase, with the lead of doctors’ and patient advocates’ advice.
Turing’s price increase could bring sales to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year if the use remains constant. Medicaid and certain hospitals will be able to get the drug inexpensively under federal rules for discounts and rebates.
Turing states that the high cost of the drug is necessary to be able to develop new and better treatment for toxoplasmosis. Yet this claim was deemed hollow by several doctors quoted in a Times article, as the side effects for Daraprim are manageable, and there is no “clamoring” for a substitute.
Article by C. Butticè
- Aug. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ Turing Pharmaceuticals AG Acquires U.S. Marketing Rights to DARAPRIM® (pyrimethamine)
- Andrew Pollack. Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight. New York Times, Sept. 20, 2015
- Brayfield, A, ed. (13 December 2013). “Pyrimethamine”. Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. Pharmaceutical Press
- Infectious Diseases Society of America – HIV Medicine Association. Letter to Turing Pharmaceuticals. September 8, 2015