It turns out that buying up an old drug and hiking up the price from $18 to $750 overnight may not have been such a good business plan for "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli after all.
During the past three months, when the embattled CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals has been vilified on social media, targeted by patients, and become the subject of a Senate investigation, he could at least take comfort from the fact that he was making tons of money as each day passed. That's because no one else made the drug Daraprim (which is used for the treatment of toxoplasmosis in people with HIV, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems), giving the company a virtual monopoly.
That streak effectively ended on Tuesday when two other companies, Express Scripts and Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, announced they would partner up to create a low-cost alternative that they said would cost as little as $1 per capsule.
The companies said Imprimis would create a compounded oral formulation for people whose pharmacy benefit is managed by Express Scripts and that they would start processing prescriptions as early as this week. They also said they would work with the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) to educate physicians about this alternative and share their science with other payers so that larger groups of patients would have access to the cheaper drug.
"Leveraging our expertise to improve access and affordability to an important medication is the right thing to do for HIV patients," said Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts. "We believe we now have an extremely cost-effective way to provide access to a Daraprim alternative."
While neither of the companies mentioned Shkreli by name, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals CEO Mark L. Baum did appear to take a dig at him in his statement.
"We are pleased to partner with Express Scripts to take positive action to counterbalance companies like Turing and others in order to address the growing drug pricing crisis in America," he said.
A Senate committee launched an investigation on Nov. 4 into the drug price hikes from Turing and three other companies — Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin Inc. and Rodelis Therapeutics — amid growing public outcries over Shkreli's actions.
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