The recent, viral outrage surrounding Turing Pharmaceuticals and its founder’s decision to raise the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim by 5,000% could spell bigger issues for the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in the U.S.
The New York Times reported Sunday that former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical founder Martin Shkreli had decided to raise the price of the drug Daraprim after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired the drug in August 2015. The story instigated intense debates on both Twitter and Reddit, as well as spurring general outrage against Shkreli.
While the rising price of this particular drug could cause big problems for the people who depend on it, the Daraprim scandal also points to potential problems for the healthcare industry as a whole.
The Daraprim Issue
According to the Times, Daraprim is a “62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection” called toxoplasmosis. While a relatively uncommon condition across the general population, this infection can create serious and potentially life-threatening issues for pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, including people who are suffering from AIDS or cancer.
After acquiring the drug last August, Turing Pharmaceuticals announced that it would increase its price by 5000%, raising the cost of a single tablet from $13.50 to $750. If left unchanged, the price hike will force some patients to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year — a stark contrast from just a few years ago, when the drug cost a single dollar per tablet.
According to NBC News, Shkreli claimed “the money from the increase would be used to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis that have fewer side effects.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Shkreli experienced incredible backlash not only from the general public over Twitter and Reddit, but also from some more notable players in the healthcare industry. Hillary Clinton cited the story in a tweet, claiming, “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous.”
Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on. -H https://t.co/9Z0Aw7aI6h
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 21, 2015
In response, Shkreli announced on Tuesday that he would reduce the cost by an unspecified amount “to allow the company to break even or make a smaller profit.”
What This Means for the Healthcare Industry
While Turing Pharmaceuticals’ decision to raise prices created viral outrage, it’s not a singular incident. Extreme price increases on pharmaceuticals have become increasingly common, especially for drugs that are considered the only options for treatment. NBC News reports that “the average cost of brand-name medications rose 13% in 2013” and “new cancer drugs now cost over $100,000 a year.”
As prices skyrocket for important and often life-saving drugs, the obvious concern is how people who need such treatments can maintain affordable access to them. The Times reports that there are certain federal rules for discounts and rebates that will enable Medicaid programs and some hospitals to still offer these drugs at inexpensive rates to patients in need. But for those who are privately insured, hospitalized, or on Medicare, costs would still amount to list prices.
In these unfortunate situations, SingleCare can help keep your prescription costs affordable, even as prices otherwise continue to rise. Whether you’re uninsured or simply have an expensive deductible, SingleCare can help you save between 50-75% on your prescription costs. An individual’s decision to raise the price of your medications shouldn’t prevent you from gaining access to a healthier and happier life.
(Main image credit: Keith Kissel/flickr)