At a time of attention to the rising cost of prescription drugs, doctors who treat patients with AIDS and cancer are upset at the new cost to treat a condition that can be life-threatening.  A drug that treats a common parasite that attacks people with weakened immune systems just increased in cost 5,000% to $750 per pill.

USA Today is reporting that Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill last month, shortly after purchasing the rights to the drug from Impax Laboratories.

The pharmaceutical, Daraprim, fights toxoplasmosis, the second most common food-borne disease, which can easily infect people whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS, chemotherapy or even pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“This is a tremendous increase,” said Judith Aberg, a spokesperson for the HIV Medicine Association. Even patients with insurance could have trouble affording the medication, she said. That’s because insurance companies often put high-price drugs in the “specialty” category, requiring patients to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. Patients whose insurance plans require them to pay 20% of the cost — a common practice — would shell out $150 a pill which is not practical for most patients.

A number of doctors and patient advocates recently have spoken out about the rising costs of prescription drugs.

The average cost of brand-name medications rose 13% in 2013, according to a report from the Prime Institute at the University of Minnesota. New cancer drugs now routinely cost more than $100,000 a year. A new brand-name hepatitis drug, Sovaldi, costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.

“Every week, I’m learning about another drug that has increased in price because of a change in marketing or the distributor,” Aberg said.

The HIV Medicine Association and Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote Turing about concerns over the new price. Aberg said she worries the increase will prevent hospitals from stocking Daraprim, which could delay patient treatment. There are no alternative brands and other treatments are not strong enough.

 

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