ARTICLE: Real cost of outrageous drug prices: Column

AUTHORS: Leah Dickstein, Rachel Kruzan and Annie Antar

JOURNAL: USA Today

In 1996, Reva Jones’ daughter, Tonya, gave her the ultimate gift — a kidney that would save her life. Like all transplant recipients, Reva would have to take medications for the rest of her life to protect the transplanted kidney from her own immune system.

These immune-suppressive medications put Reva at risk for multiple infectious diseases, and sadly, 15 years after her life-saving transplant surgery, Reva contracted a serious brain infection with Toxoplasma gondii, rendering her confused and unable to speak. T. gondii is a single-celled parasite that affects about 10% of the U.S. population but causes disease only in those with compromised immune systems.

To control this life-threatening infection, Reva was prescribed a combination of antibiotics anchored by the anti-parasite drug pyrimethamine, which recently caught the world’s attention because its current manufacturer, Turing Pharmaceuticals, inexplicably increased the drug’s price by 5,000%, from $13.50 to $750 a pill. (Turing CEO Martin Shkreli recently stepped down after he was arrested on unrelated fraud charges.)

Although the price hike attracted a news media firestorm, largely overlooked was the even more alarming decision by the drug’s previous manufacturer to eliminate distribution of the drug to outpatient pharmacies across America, a policy that continued after Turing acquired the drug. Developed more than 60 years ago, pyrimethamine, sold under the brand name Daraprim, has long been off-patent and was until now affordable and widely distributed. But it is now available only to patients outside of a hospital via a single distributor. That makes access — not just cost — a huge challenge for patients and medical professionals nationwide.

For a link to the full article, click here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/12/27/true-cost-outrageous-drug-prices-deraprim-martin-shkreli-column/77838400/

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