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Turing faces antitrust probe over Daraprim price hike

Published on 14/10/15 at 04:47pm

Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug company that increased the price of the generic drug Daraprim 50-fold overnight, is facing an antitrust probe by the New York Attorney General, reports suggest. 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's antitrust bureau contacted Turing’s chief executive Martin Shkreli on Monday, seeking a response to accusations that the company may be restraining competition unlawfully. 

Turing is said to be limiting the distribution of Daraprim to specialty pharmacies only, with the goal of making it far more difficult for generic manufacturers to obtain samples from which they could make their own, cheaper version.

The Attorney General’s letter, originally obtained by The New York Times, insists that Shkreli retain all documents that could be relevant to the investigation. 

Turing made headlines and sparked outrage after hiking the price of the 62-year old unpatented Toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750. The company responded by promising to lower the price, but it has yet to do so or confirm by how much.

The Daraprim case also highlighted ethical issues around pharmaceutical practices and became an important part of the Democratic presidential nomination debates, particularly for frontrunner Hilary Clinton, who promised several industry reforms if elected.

Shkreli has reacted defiantly to the political criticism he has received, using his Twitter profile to question Clinton and her rival Bernie Sanders’ understanding of pharmaceutical pricing.

'Dear @BernieSanders & @HillaryClinton, I have an important question for you. Get back to me whenever,' he tweeted, before adding: ‘Would you prefer (1) a lower price of our medicine, which is overwhelmingly paid for by "Corporate America" and their insurers (who are reporting record profits) or (2) that we use our resources to research a new drug for resistant strains of this neglected disease.’ 

The chief executive argues that a higher price for Daraprim is necessary in order to fund research into more modern treatments for parasitic infections that will remain effective long term.

Turing recently submitted its first in-house drug candidate to the US FDA. TUR-004 is intended for use as an adjunctive therapy for refractory generalised seizures in patients with epileptic encephalopathies.

Joel Levy

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