(Martin Shkreli via Twitter)
Almost a month after word got out that drug-company CEO Martin Shkreli had jacked up the price of a critical drug by more than 5,000%, a different kind of pharma company has stepped up to provide a cheaper alternative.
Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding pharmaceutical company, announced Thursday that it is now providing a customizable formulation to compete with Daraprim, a drug used to treat a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis in people with compromised immune systems.
Shkreli jacked up the cost of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill seemingly overnight.
Imprimis is charging $99 for a 100-pill bottle of the drug, or $0.99 a pill.
Compounding pharmacies are different from major drug companies, which focus on developing new drugs for the US Food and Drug Administration approval. Even generic manufacturers still have to get FDA approval for the drugs they plan to market.
Instead, compounding pharmacies buy FDA-approved compounds that they can then formulate into pills that can be customized to fit certain conditions.
For example, if a drug you need is only available in pill form and you have trouble swallowing pills, a compounding pharmacy can buy that pill and put it into a liquid form that's easier to take. The only thing they can't do is directly copy the FDA-approved drug.
That's what Imprimis plans to do with pyrimethamine, the compound in Daraprim. The company will combine pyrimethamine with leucovorin, a form of B-vitamin folic acid that's recommended to treat toxoplasmosis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The leucovorin counters the bone marrow loss that comes as a side effect of taking pyrimethamine.
Imprimis CEO Mark Baum told Business Insider that the reason he wanted to start providing this compound at such a lower cost is because he's worked with the people affected by potential shortages of this drug for years.
"I've served this patient population for a long time, and when I see a company do this … it just shocks the conscience," he said.
The San Diego-based public company will still make a "tremendous profit," Baum said, effectively challenging Shkreli's argument that Turing needed to turn a profit and thus needed to raise the price of Daraprim so dramatically.
Imprimis operates out of four states in FDA-regulated facilities. It's also licensed to provide the drug to all 50 states, either through a doctor's office or mail order, so long as a doctor has prescribed the specific drug to the patient.
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