Express Scripts To Cover $1 Daraprim Alternative

Jennifer Deutschmann

Express Scripts has announced plans to cover a Daraprim alternative — which will cost only $1 per pill. The decision was sparked by Turing Pharmaceuticals’ decision to increase the price of Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to more than $750. Amid the subsequent controversy, San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals developed an alternate treatment that will save patients hundreds of dollars.

Daraprim is a brand name for pyrimethamine, which is prescribed to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis. As both are potentially fatal, treatment with pyrimethamine, in conjunction with sulfonamide, is often vital for survival.

Toxoplasmosis is a specific concern for patients suffering from a weakened immune system due to organ transplants or an HIV infection. Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as toxoplasmosis can be passed to a fetus.

Prior to Turing Pharmaceuticals’ acquisition of Daraprim, the medication was available for $13.50 per pill. In August, Turning inexplicable raised the price to $750 per pill, which is simply impossible for many patients to afford.

The average cost of treating one patient with Daraprim, prior to the increase, was approximately $1,130. At $750 per pill, the average cost of treatment increased to more than $60,000.

As reported by CBS News, the increase in cost was initiated by Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, who vehemently defended the price hike as “a smart business decision.”

“… the drug was unprofitable at the former price, so any company selling it would be losing money. And at this price it’s a reasonable profit. Not excessive at all.”

Shkreli further defended the increase as a means to fund future research and development. In his opinion, the increased cost will ultimately benefit patients, as the company will have an opportunity to offer more effective treatment options and a possible “cure of toxoplasmosis.”

Although Martin Shkreli insists the increase was a necessity, the decision was met with stark criticism from medical professionals, patients, and even politicians.

Amid the continued controversy, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals developed a more affordable alternative, which will be sold for $1 per pill.

As explained in a news release, Imprimis’ version of Daraprim is a “compounded… formulation of pyrimethamine and leucovorin.”

Although both are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, their use as a compounded drug formulation is not. However, as explained by Imprimis, the formulation may “be prescribed pursuant to a physician prescription for an individually identified patient” if the prescribed treatment is “consistent with federal and state laws governing compounded drug formulations.”

As stated in a press release, Express Scripts will cover and promote the Daraprim alternative in combined effort with the HIV Medicine Association and the Infectious Disease Society of America.

Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Express Scripts Dr. Steve Miller said the company’s goal is to “put medicine within reach by making it more affordable and accessible… to people who suffer with toxoplasmosis.”

Miller also announced Express Scripts’ support of the Imprimis Cares initiative, which is part of a larger campaign to provide affordable medication to patients in need.

“Like Imprimis, Express Scripts believes in putting patients first and that the excessive drug price increases we have seen over the past few years, particularly for life saving medicines such as Daraprim, deserve our attention.”

As reported by USA Today, Turing Pharmaceuticals has not responded to Express Scripts’ plan to cover the Daraprim alternative. However, in an earlier statement, a spokesperson said Turing’s “goal has been to ensure that every patient… has ready and affordable access” to the vital medication.

According to reports, Express Scripts will begin covering the Daraprim alternative before the end of the week.

[Photo by Craig Ruttle, File/AP]