Turing Pharmaceuticals has announced it will lower the price of Daraprim after faced a backlash following raising the price of the drug used by AIDS patients by over 5,000%.
Turing CEO Martin Shkreli told reporters he would drop the price following the outcry, but did not say by how much.
Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim in August 2015.
The company then raised the cost of the drug, which treats a parasitic infection, from $13.50 to $750.
Amid criticism from medical groups – one called the cost “unjustifiable” – Martin Shkreli on September 21 defended the increase, saying the profits would help research new treatments.
Martin Shkreli accused critics of not understanding the pharmaceutical industry.
He has now told ABC News: “We’ve agreed to lower the price on Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit.”
Earlier in the day, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s main lobbying group, tweeted that Turing “does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies”.
Agreeing a price for any drug is a tricky business.
In the US, the buyers are private insurance companies as well as the government through the Medicare and Medicaid system. It’s a market and prices can go up and down, depending on what people are willing to pay.
In recent years, pharmaceutical research and development has slowed and companies have to think carefully about what they invest in. Blockbusters such as Viagra pull in money, but orphan drugs for rare diseases can be less attractive. Not many patients use them, and so turning a profit may be difficult.
According to a United Nations AIDS report, the goal to get HIV treatment to 15 million people by the end of 2015 has already been met.
The landmark figure was reached in March – nine months ahead of schedule.
It follows decades of global efforts and investment to get antiretroviral drugs to those in need – such as people living in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2000, when the UN first set goals to combat HIV, fewer than 700,000 people were receiving these vital medicines.
According to UNAIDS, which has a report out today, the global response to HIV has averted 30 million new HIV infections and nearly eight million AIDS-related deaths since the millennium.
Over the same time frame, new HIV infections have fallen from 2.6 million per year to 1.8 million, and AIDS-related deaths have gone down from 1.6 million to 1.2 million.
Meanwhile, global investment in HIV has gone up from $4.8 billion in 2000 to more than $20 billion in 2014.
And concerted action over the next five years could end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, says UNAIDS.
However, progress has been slower in some areas.
A major gap seems to be in awareness of HIV status, which is the biggest barrier to treatment access, says the report.
And treatment access for children has lagged behind adults – although this is now improving.
The proportion of children living with HIV who receive antiretroviral therapy almost doubled between 2010 and 2014 (from 14% to 32%), but coverage “remains notably lower than it does for adults”, says the report.
Even though new HIV infections have gone down, there is still an unacceptable number of new HIV infections each year, contributing to the burden of the epidemic.
In 2014, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 66% of all new HIV infections. And at the last headcount, there were an estimated 25.8 million people in this region living with HIV. The estimated count for the whole world was 36.9 million.
This year sees the switch from Millennium Development Goals to broader Sustainable Development Goals.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations said: “The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic.
“Now we must commit to ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The report says the next five years will be critical and recommends front-loading investment to “sprint” towards an ambition of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.