Turing's $750 Pill Daraprim Has $1 Competitor


The $750 per pill price of pyrimethamine could soon be undercut by a new compound selling for $1 per pill.

The $750 per pill price of pyrimethamine could soon be undercut by a new compound selling for $1 per pill.

The outrageous $750 a pill price of pyrimethamine (Daraprim/ Turing) could soon be undercut by the appearance of a new compound selling for a dollar a pill.

Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager based in St. Louis, MO, announced today that it is working with Imprimis, a San Diego, CA compounder to combine pyrimethamine with leucovorin to market a new product, one due to be available this week.

The move would undercut Turing's much-hated decision to rake in profits after it bought the US rights to Daraprim and hiked the price of the 50-year-old anti-parasitic drug from $1 to its current $750 a pill. That move, though legal, has made headlines around the world and led Congress to consider reforms to control or discourage such price increases.

The decision was made by the company's CEO, Martin Shkreli.

In a news release announcing the product's price, Mark Baum, Imprimis CEO, said "We are are pleased to partner with Express Scripts to take positive action to counterbalances companies like Turing and others in order to address the growing drug-pricing crisis in America."

With Turing's newly jacked-up pricing, the drug was no longer affordable for many people who needed it, including patients with HIV and others with weakened immune systems and pregnant women who are at serious risk if they get toxoplasmosis.

The fact that Shkreli faced no legal hurdles in doing what he did was widely seen as an example of factors contributing to the high cost of medical care in the US.

Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts said "Leveraging our expertise to improve access and affordability to an important medication is the right thing to do."

Physicians who want to prescribe the low-cost drug for patients will have to send a patient-specific request to the pharmacy to get the compounded drug from Imprimis. Otherwise the pharmacy would have to fill the prescription with the Turing drug.

Express Scripts has 85 million covered members, including only about 350 who need the drug. Imprimis has said it will be able to purchase the main ingredient in Daraprim from various approved suppliers and combine it with leucovorin (a drug for folic acid deficiency) to offer an alternative to the Turing product.

In a statement, Turing said the new compound does not have FDA approval and that the company has started patient assistance programs for those who cannot afford the $750 pill.

But Baum said his company wants to be part of a move to drive down such prices.

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