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Pharmaceutical company sparks outrage over AIDS treatment price increase

An American pharamceutical company has sparked outrage after increasing the cost of a 62 year old medication by 5,000% shortly after purchasing the marketing rights last month.

Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750, bringing the cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousand of dollars a year.

Amid increasing costs for prescription medicine, doctors treating patients with AIDS and cancer have decried the latest price hike as a new obstacle to combating the potentially life threatening conditions.

Daraprim fights toxoplasmosis, a common food-borne parasitic disease which can easily infect people with immune systems which have been weakened by AIDS or chemotherapy treatment.

HIV Medicine Association spokesperson Judith Aberg commented on the tremendous rise in price and questioned what Turing were doing differently to the previous supplier to warrant such an increase.

She went on to raise concerns that the rise would lead hospitals to stop using the drug and switch to less effective alternatives to cut costs.

The rise could also lead to the medication being put into a special category by insurance companies which would lead to increased insurance costs for patients.

A Turing spokesperson, Craig Rothenberg, said that the money made from sales would be used to research new treatments into toxoplasmosis, and to invest in education and marketing to raise awareness of the disease.

Increasing prices of prescription medication has been an issue in the US for some time, last year a study from the University of Minnesota’s Prime Institute showed that the cost of brand-name medications in the country rose by 13% 2013.

The lack of transparency within the pharmaceutical industry about their pricing has lead several states to pass bills requiring companies to justify their prices, which are generally attributed to research and development costs.

Chief Executive of the National Coalition on Health Care, John Rother, said his group hoped to introduce transparency legislation in Congress, aimed at determining how drug companies estimate the value of their drugs, not the research and development costs.

“The industry has used R&D costs for the justification, but anyone who is reasonably sophisticated understands those are sunk costs and have little to do with pricing.

“The more important information is any calculation of value. If the drug actually cures people, then what costs in health care are you saving?”
Photo courtesy of Jo Guldi via Flickr

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