The price-gouging “pharma bro” is backing out of his promise to lower the cost of Daraprim after jacking up its price by more than 5,000 percent.
Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, became known as “the most hated man on the Internet” after raising the price of the drug, which is used to treat parasitic infections, from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill.
He backed down shortly after the controversy erupted and pledged to roll back the cost of the 62-year-old drug to its original price — but the company said earlier this month the price would be only modestly rolled back.
Turing announced Tuesday that the price for Daraprim would not change, after all — although the company offered to negotiate a discount of up to 50 percent with hospitals.
The company’s chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, pledged that no patient would ever be denied access to Daraprim but defended the continued price increase.
“Drug pricing is one of the most complex parts of the healthcare industry,” Retzlaff said in a statement. A drug’s list price is not the primary factor in determining patient affordability and access.”
But medical experts said the pills, even at $375 each, would be too costly for most patients.
“A 50 percent reduction after a 5,000 percent price increase still makes this an extremely expensive drug, and still prevents most hospitals from keeping it in stock,” said Joel Gallant, of Southwest CARE Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Suffice it to say that this announcement doesn’t satisfy anyone.”
It’s not clear whether Turing will offer the hospital discount to insurers, although the company said it would provide free samples to some health-care providers and sell smaller bottles of the pills to make them more affordable.
Shkreli led a group of investors this week in buying up 70 percent of outstanding shares of the troubled biotech company KaloBios Pharmaceuticals — or, as a Dealbreaker headline announced: “Desperate pharmaceutical company hits rock bottom, names Martin Shkreli CEO.”
Turing is currently under investigation by lawmakers for alleged price-gouging, although Shkreli has said he won’t cooperate without a subpoena.
A “real f*cking doctor” shredded Shkreli’s arguments during an online question-and-answer session after the CEO was unable to explain why the drug’s price should be dramatically increased.
Daraprim, which is listed as an essential drug by the World Health Organization, is available in other countries for less than $1 a pill.
The pharmaceutical company Imprimis said last month that it would produce a generic alternative to the drug for $1 a pill.