Pharma firm gets slammed for ‘greed’ and ‘gouging’

Critics say a pharmaceutical company that raised its prices by 5000 percent is ‘flipping meds’; many watching are just flipping out. One presidential candidate says she has a solution.

Stories about patients who cut back on medications because they can’t afford them are all too common. This one might top them all.

Some are calling Turing Pharmaceutical’s exorbitant new price for Daraprim an example of greed and even “flipping meds.” The startup run by former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli suddenly raised the price of the specialty medication from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. The new price became effective within a 24-hour period, leaving consumers and regulators to wonder why the steep increase is needed when the medicine itself has not been changed.

The news came to light Sunday witha scathing story by New York Times reporter Andrew Pollack.

By midday Monday, repercussions were being felt on Wall Street. Biotech stocks were taking a beating and became the source of debate on news programs, including shows on CNBC.

Steve Case, CEO of investment firm Revolution, said on “Power Lunch” that pharma reform and innovation are needed: “If we can figure out a way to lower the cost of development and expedite the process of getting these things from the labs into the marketplace, I think that will result in better products, better services for more people, and better drugs at lower costs.”

Also Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Turing’s move “price gouging” and says she has a plan to address it. However, not everyone on Twitter is convinced:

​Pharma_Hillaryplantomorrow

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On FierceBiotech.com, reporter John Carroll called Shkreli “a moron” and wrote:

Daraprim was approved to treat toxoplasmosis in 1953, 30 years before Shkreli was born. And once again, he’s
flirting with becoming the poster child for price gouging in the pharma industry.

A spokesperson for Turing told USA Today that the hike will help fund the company’s research on toxoplasmosis, along with new education programs about the disease. Toxoplasmosis is a common food-borne disease that affects people with weakened immune systems. The HIV/AIDS community has been keeping a close eye on this.

Meanwhile, on the cannabis front

Research on medical marijuana reveals that people in states where the drug is legal prefer it over prescription drugs they had previously used. Respondents to a survey said they have gotten “a lot” or “complete relief” when using therapeutic marijuana to ease:

  • Chronic pain

  • Nausea

  • Bowel ailments

  • Headaches

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Muscle spasms

“Previously published survey data of medical cannabis patients similarly report subjects’ willingness to substitute cannabis for prescription drugs, particularly opioids,” according to TheDailyChronic.net.

Once again, health care marketers, change is on the horizon. The question is: Who—if anyone—will pay the price?

Another question: How will you and your medical colleagues discuss pricing issues with patients in light of the drastic hike for Daraprim?

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