SCIENCE

How Pharma Execs Jacked Up The Prices of 5 Other Critical Drugs

Turing Chief Executive Martin Shkreli isn't the first pharmaceutical executive to jack up the price of decades-old drugs

Sep 22, 2015 at 4:02 PM ET

Update: After a day of intense criticism, Turing Pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli told NBC News on Tuesday evening that he planned to lower the price of the drug Daraprim. Shkreli did not say by how much he would lower the price, but said it will be lowered to a rate that will allow the company break even or make a “small profit.”

A huge, overnight spike in the price of a drug frequently used by AIDS patients has caused an uproar over the price of prescription drugs and what causes their prices to increase so dramatically in such a short period of time. But Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company behind the drug Daraprim—which went from $13.50 a pill to $750—is not alone in terms of jaw-dropping price spikes for prescription drugs.

One drug in particular has been described as the “poster child” for massive price hikes. Doxycycline, a common antibiotic that’s been around since the late 1960s, cost $20 for a bottle of 500 100mg tablets in 2013. A year later, the price rocketed to $1,849, an 8,281 percent increase, according to a report from the Healthcare Supply Chain Association cited in a 2014 Congressional investigation into prescription drug prices.

More The Fraud Behind Some Of The Most Common Prescription Drugs

Other drugs that have dramatically spiked in price include Glycopyrrolate, used during surgery to maintain a patient’s heart rate. Between October 2013 and April 2014, the cost of 10 vials of Glycopyrrolate jumped from $65 for 10 vials to $1,277, according to a 2014 report from AARP. Another common drug whose price tag soared in recent years is the asthma medication Albuterol—between October 2013 and April 2014, two tablets of the drug used to make inhalers went from $11 to $434, according to the HSCA report.

Health experts credit several reasons for the huge spikes in prescription drugs. One reason frequently cited is competition with other drug manufacturers. “One of the reasons generic drugs are inexpensive is that there is competition in the market,” Aaron Kesselheim, M.D., a Harvard Medical School expert who studies drug pricing, wrote in an AARP report. “When that competition goes away, prices will rise.”

Turing’s steep price hike drew intense criticism and even prompted presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to pledge to develop a plan to regulate rising drug prices. “Price-gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous,” Clinton posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Critics cite corporate greed amongst pharmaceutical companies, a charge Turing CEO Martin Shkreli denies. “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Shkreli told the New York Times, adding that “this is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world…it really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”