Pharmacies will Offer Daraprim Alternative for $1 a Pill Amid Public Outrage
Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who increased the price of the AIDS drug Daraprim 5,000%, is having a bad week. A competing pharmaceutical company has announced that it will start offering a generic version of the drug for $1 per pill.
Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmaceutical company, says it will sell the substitute medication for as little as $99 for a 100-pill bottle. The company’s medication is a customized formulation that treats toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that is known to inflict people with AIDS and other illnesses in individuals with weakened immune systems. 
Shkreli jacked up the price of Daraprim in September to $750 from $13.50 a pill. At that rate, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association says it would cost $336,000 to treat someone with the drug for a year. 
“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,” Imprimis CEO Mark Baum said in a statement.
“This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug — especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim — has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable,” Baum said.
On Monday, Hillary Clinton wrote to the FDA asking that they examine Turing’s outrageous pricing of Daraprim. She also requested that the agency allow low-price versions of the drug to be imported from Canada and the U.K. 
“Patients who rely on this treatment should not have their health and lives put at risk because of an unnecessary anti-competitive market, and the FDA should act through all of its available authorities to remedy this situation as soon as feasible,” she wrote in the FDA letter.
Compounding pharmacies differ from Big Pharma companies in that they purchase FDA-approved compounds that they can formulate into pills that can be customized to fit certain conditions, Business Insider explains. Major pharmaceutical companies focus on developing new drugs for FDA approval. Generic pharmaceutical companies still need FDA approval to market a drug. 
Imprimis plans to use pyrimethamine, the compound in Daraprim, in combination with leucovorin, a form of B-vitamin folic acid that’s recommended to treat toxoplasmosis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leucovorin is used to counter the bone mass loss that accompanies the use of pyrimethamine.
Baum says he was inspired to create the Daraprim alternative after working with people affected by the potential shortage of the drug for years.
“I’ve served this patient population for a long time, and when I see a company do this … it just shocks the conscience,” he said.
And contrary to Shkreli’s assertion that Turing had to raise the price of Daraprim to turn a profit, Baum says his company will still turn a “tremendous profit,” despite the drug’s low cost.
Baum says Imprimis plans to start making inexpensive versions of other drugs that have skyrocketed in price.
“We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up,” Baum said in an interview.
“There’ll be many more of these compounded drugs coming in the near future.”
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Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.