Almost exactly a year ago, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli pulled virtually the same stunt he recently tried with Daraprim, a critical parasitic-infection-fighting drug whose price he attempted to raise overnight from $US13.50 per pill to $US750.
Only last year, hardly anyone noticed.
In 2014, Shkreli bumped the price of a drug called Thiola by 2,000%, from $US1.50 a pill to $US30. Back then, he was CEO of a company called Retrophin, Inc.
Thiola, like Shkreli’s most recent target Daraprim, is an orphan drug, meaning it was developed specifically to treat a rare medical condition. In this case, the drug in question was used to treat cystinuria, a rare disease that causes amino acids in the body to form stones in the kidney, ureter, and bladder.
Thiola is the only drug of its kind on the market, and people with cystinuria generally need to take more than one Thiola pill each day. There’s no cure for cystinuria, which means people with the genetic disease have to take the medication frequently to prevent the stones from building up. The starting dose for adults is 800 milligrams, or eight pills, per day.
Retrophin acquired the US marketing rights to Thiola back in May 2014. By September, blogs like In The Pipeline and FiercePharma picked up the suddenly inflated price. In The Pipeline’s Derek Lowe called the move “The most unconscionable drug price hike I have yet seen.”
There was one big difference, Lowe pointed out, between Thiola’s price hike and other drugs whose prices have increased in a short time frame: There had been no new studies on the drug, which meant the company hadn’t spent any money on developing the product to make it better.
A few weeks after the new price was reported, Retrophin fired Shkreli, claiming the decision was because of irregularities in stock. Shkreli responded on Twitter: “Rather upset at my inane [Board of Directors] who was overly focused on irrelevant innuendo but also now can pursue a NewCo (new company) without them. So net-net excited.”
Looks like it was only a matter of time before his “NewCo,” also known as Turing Pharmaceuticals, would pull a similar price-rising stunt.
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