Turing Pharmaceuticals was the focus of much scrutiny by both the media and politicians this week over its 5,000% price hike of a generic anti-infection drug, Daraprim.
After less than a week of unfavorable attention from the mainstream and social media, Turing CEO Martin Shkreli announced on September 22 that he would lower the price of the drug. But he hasn’t given any specifics about what the new price would be.
On August 10, Turing bought the U.S. rights to pyrimethamine, or Daraprim, from Impax Laboratories for $55 million. Shortly after acquiring the drug, Turing increased the price of the drug from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.
The drug Daraprim is mostly prescribed to patients with abnormally weakened immune systems due to cancer or HIV infection and who need help fighting toxoplasmosis parasitic infections. According to initial reports, there is no good alternative for Daraprim.
Shkreli, who is also Turing’s founder, has been sitting squarely in the controversy’s spotlight after he made a brash initial response to a question from a journalist about the price hike. Reporter John Carroll of FierceBiotech asked Shkreli via Twitter to explain the price change.
“It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” responded Shkreli, followed by, “You are such a moron.”
This is not the first time Shkreli, who is 32 and a former hedge fund manager, has been part of a monetary controversy. Shortly after Turing bought Daraprim, a company Shkreli co-founded accused him of inappropriately managing the company’s funds for his own benefit.
As the blows continued, Shkreli slightly adjusted his reasoning for the price change, saying, “I’m a capitalist trying to create a big drug company, a successful drug company, a profitable drug company… With these new profits we can spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug, in my opinion.”
This echoes the typical reasoning big pharmaceutical companies give for their high prices.
But the incident has fueled the country’s larger dissatisfaction with the price of drugs and healthcare as a whole. In the midst of the firestorm, the Nasdaq Biotech Index fell 4.4% on September 21.