When used in combination with a sulfonamide and leucovorin, Daraprim is the preferred treatment among infectious disease specialists for toxoplasmosis. The drug was acquired from Impax Laboratories, Inc in early August by Turing Pharmaceuticals AG and the cost for patients instantly increased by some 5000 percent.

Public domain image/Milad Mosapoor@wikimedia commons
Public domain image/Milad Mosapoor@wikimedia commons

The cost of the drug, the only FDA-approved treatment for the serious parasitic infection, went from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, prompting the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to write to Turing requesting they immediately implement a rational and fair pricing strategy for pyrimethamine (Daraprim) that keeps treatment for a potentially fatal condition accessible to our patients.

In mid-August, after Turing purchased pyrimethamine, the price of the medication increased by 5000 percent in hospital pharmacies around the country with no justification for an increase of this magnitude for a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1953. In addition, hospitals, including those with 340B pharmacies, also reported being unable to obtain the medication, IDSA and  HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) Presidents, Stephen B. Calderwood, MD, FIDSA  and Adaora Adimora, MD, MPH, FIDSA  write in the Sep. 8 letter.

A New York Times report quotes Turing’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Shkreli as saying that the drug is so rarely used that the effect would be very small and the company could work on better toxoplasmosis treatments, “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business.”

In August during the acquisition, Shkreli said, “The acquisition of Daraprim and our toxoplasmosis research program are significant steps along Turing’s path of bringing novel medications to patients with serious disorders, some of whom often go undiagnosed and untreated. We intend to invest in the development of new drug candidates that we hope will yield an even better clinical profile, and also plan to launch an educational effort to help raise awareness and improve diagnosis for patients with toxoplasmosis.”

Shkreli has been accused of similar actions in the past with Retrophin, a startup in 2011. Just last month he was sued for creating the biotech and taking it public solely to provide stock to hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management investors when the hedge fund became insolvent.