LOS ANGELES (September 24, 2015)—AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization that currently serves over 486,000 patients around the world each year, today denounced the lack of regulation and pharmaceutical industry greed that has led to record drug prices for specialty medications and billions of dollars in profits for drug manufacturers. Most recently, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli made international headlines this week for defending the company’s decision to raise the price of Daraprim—a medication used to treat toxoplasmosis in AIDS patients—over 5,000% after recently acquiring the rights to the drug. While drug companies have increasingly introduced new specialty medications at astronomical prices—including Gilead’s $1,000-per-pill Sovaldi or $94,500 cost of Harvoni—Turing purchased the 62-year-old Daraprim in August from Impax Laboratories for $55 million. Overnight, the company priced the drug at $750 per pill until widespread public outrage prompted Shkreli to announce yesterday a yet-to-be-determined price reduction.
Prior to being purchased by Turing, Daraprim was available through the federal government’s 340B Drug Discount Program at $1 per 100 tablets—one penny per pill—a price AHF Pharmacy confirmed when it purchased quantities of the drug at that price this past Monday morning through 340 B. The vast gap between the price government agencies were allowed to pay for Daraprim compared to cost charged to private insurers underscores the need for increased government oversight and regulation of drug company pricing.
“Martin Shkreli’s stated rationale for hiking the price of a lifesaving drug used by many AIDS patients within hours of acquiring the rights to the drug seems like a page taken right out of the pharmaceutical industry’s ‘profits before patients’ playbook,” said AHF Chief Pharmacy Officer Scott Caruthers. “For Turing to charge public payers one dollar—just one cent per pill—for Daraprim through the 340B program but burden private insurance companies and self-pay individuals with a cost 750 times greater for the same drug is unconscionable and deeply unfair to both patients and the healthcare system.”
“The one upside of Martin Shkreli’s price hike is that it unleased a firestorm of criticism in the media, among the general public and in political circles over the pharmaceutical industry’s greed on drug pricing that has been festering for years,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Turing’s 32-year-old’s CEO’s greed is likely to go down in history as the straw that broke the camel’s back on drug pricing.”
On Tuesday, following a tsunami of negative press and criticism after the New York Times’ Andrew Pollack wrote about the price hike, Shkreli said that he will reduce the price of Daraprim, but, according to NBCNews.com, said he, “…did not say what the new price would be but expected a determination to be made over the next few weeks.”
Turing’s price hike on Daraprim also prompted promises of action on drug pricing from politicians, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton vowed to release a plan to reform the specialty drug market, declaring Tuesday on Twitter that she wants to “both protect consumers and promote innovation—while putting an end to profiteering.”
“We fully support Hillary Clinton’s timely decision to make addressing drug company pricing a key part of her platform,” added AHF’s Weinstein. “We call upon the other candidates vying to be the next president of the United States to detail how they would show leadership in addressing the issue of drug costs that the majority of Americans consider to be a top concern.”
In order to curb astronomical increases in drug prices that three-quarters of the American public (76%) have ranked as a top priority (according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in April), AHF is sponsoring two state ballot initiatives in California and Ohio to give the states increased bargaining power to obtain lower drug prices.