A California specialty drugmaker is offering a $1 rival to a prescription drug solely supplied by Turing Pharmaceuticals, whose 5,000 percent price hike last month sparked outrage in the United States.
Imprimis Pharmaceuticals said Thursday it is offering a combination of pyrimethamine and leucovorin in an oral capsule for physicians to prescribe as a low-cost alternative to Turing's Daraprim, which fights a parasitic infection.
The San Diego-based Imprimis said it would offer its alternative capsule starting as low as $99.00 for a 100-count bottle, a tick less than $1 each.
Pyrimethamine is used to fight toxoplasmosis, an parasite-borne infection that often inflicts persons with weakened immune systems, such as patients with HIV/AIDS.
Leucovorin helps to reverse the negative effects pyrimethamine use on bone marrow. The company will put together a custom compound of the two ingredients.
Daraprim's active ingredient is also pyrimethamine. The six-decade-old drug is the only one approved by the US Federal Drug Administration for the treatment of toxoplasmosis.
Turing, a privately held biopharmaceutical company, acquired the exclusive rights to market Daraprim in the US in August from Impax Laboratories.
In September, Turing hiked the price of the drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750 overnight.
The move hit a public nerve as Turing's founder and chief executive Martin Shkreli, a 32-year hedge fund manager, made headlines as the "most hated man in America" after a video went viral of him flippantly explaining why he raised the cost of the pill.
The outcry renewed the prolonged debate over soaring drug prices in the US, which unlike other nations, particularly in Europe, has no regulations to keep costs low.
"While we respect Turing's right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim, for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider," said Mark Baum, chief executive of Imprimis, in a statement.
"This is not the first time a sole-supply generic drug -- especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim -- has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable," he said.
Imprimis will launch a new program called Imprimis Cares to make generic drugs available at accessible prices, "in response to this recent case and others that we will soon identify," Baum said.
Turing's Shkreli said, amid the public anger over the Daraprim hike, that the company would lower its price, but in response to an AFP query Friday, it did not say what the new price would be.
Shares in Imprimis surged 17.4 percent, closing at $7.01 on the Nasdaq.