It was hard to find a silver lining after Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of an anti-parasitic medication from $13.50 per pill to a staggering $750 in September, but Express Scripts, a prescription drug provider, may have done just that. It has announced a partnership with Imprimis Pharmaceuticals to develop an alternative medication that will be available to patients for just $1 per pill.
The medication in question, Daraprim, is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic illness most likely to affect those who are immunocompromised, including pregnant women, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or who have HIV/AIDS. It is the most vulnerable members in our society — and those already racked with medical bills — who were most affected by Turing's price hike, yet could benefit the most from this new formula.
"Leveraging our expertise to improve access and affordability to an important medication is the right thing to do for HIV patients and others who could benefit from a combination of pyrimethamine and leucovorin," Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, explained in a news release. "We believe we now have an extremely cost-effective way to provide access to a Daraprim alternative. We will share our solution with other payers to make sure all appropriate patients around the country have access to the treatment they need at the lowest possible price."
The drug manufactured by Imprimis will have the same active ingredient as Daraprim, and will be compounded with a different formula that treats one of the most common side effects of toxoplasmosis treatment: folic acid deficiency.
However, there is one critical thing that patients will have to consider: though all of the components of have been approved by the FDA, the combination of them has not. It usually takes decades of tightly regulated scientific trials before a medication can be prescribed to patients. Because the patients who are most likely to contract toxoplasmosis are already immunocompromised, it's unclear how many are willing to go with something not proven.
Physicians will be educated about this compounded formula with help from members of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA).
"Our goal is always to put medicine within reach by making it more affordable and accessible," Miller continued. "By partnering with like-minded partners at Imprimis, the IDSA and HIVMA who are passionate about patient care and access, we believe we can make great progress in delivering better health outcomes to people who suffer from toxoplasmosis."
While Turing has stated that they are working to reduce the cost of Daraprim, it won't go back down to its pre-hike rate. However, the fact that it is an approved drug with a proven track record for efficacy might still be a more attractive option for some individuals.
Express Scripts will be covering this new drug from Imprimis starting this week, so it will be extremely interesting to see how this new drug is received by doctors and their patients.
(H/T: Wall Street Journal)
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