US drugmaker to roll back pill price after hike sparks outrage

Turing Pharmaceuticals said on Tuesday it would make sure an old anti-infective drug remains affordable. The company had previously announced a 5,000 percent price hike on the pill. 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File
Various prescription drugs are seen on the automated pharmacy assembly line at Medco Health Solutions in Willingboro, N.J. on June 14, 2011. Drugmaker Turing Pharmaceuticals said on Tuesday it would roll back the 5,000 percent price hike it planned for the pill Daraprim after critics, who included Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, called the increase unjustifiable.

Turing Pharmaceuticals, a small company that generated outrage over raising the cost of an old anti-infective drug by more than 5,000 percent, said on Tuesday it would roll back that increase to make sure it remains affordable.

Turing and its Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli became the new face of the US drug pricing controversy this week, after the New York Times reported that the company had raised the price of Daraprim, a 62-year-old treatment for a dangerous parasitic infection, to $750 a pill from $13.50 after acquiring it. The medicine once sold for $1 a pill.

The story sparked outrage among patients, medical societies, and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who outlined on Tuesday a proposal to cap skyrocketing prescription drug costs for consumers.

"We've agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit, and we think these changes will be welcome," Mr. Shkreli told ABC World News Tonight. The final cost was still being determined, but would be less than $750 per pill.

Earlier in the day, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's main lobbying group, sought to distance itself from Turing's move, posting on Twitter that the drugmaker "does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies."

Asked for further details, the lobby group noted that Turing is not one of its members, which include global drugmakers such as Merck & Co, Pfizer and Novartis.

"PhRMA members have a long history of drug discovery and innovation that has led to increased longevity and improved lives for millions of patients," the group said in a statement. "Turing Pharmaceutical is not a member of PhRMA and we do not embrace either their recent actions or the conduct of their CEO."

In an interview on CNBC on Monday, an unapologetic Shkreli said that Daraprim had been priced too low and that his company needed to generate profits that it would spend on new research and development. PhRMA member companies have made similar arguments on the need to price new drugs high enough to ensure that they have enough to cover their R&D investments.

Asked if he would lower the price in response to the furor, Shkreli simply responded, "No." 

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