The debate over the price of prescription drugs has ignited once more with the recent launch of Israeli firm Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s generic version of Syprine for the treatment of Wilson’s disease.
According to Globes, Valeant, which holds the patent for Syprine, was selling 100 pills of the original drug cost $652 in 2010, but hiked the price to more than $21,000 in 2015.
In a press release trumpeting its launch of the “lower-cost alternative” generic version, a Teva official noted, “It shows Teva’s commitment to serving needy groups of patients.”
Just one problem: 100 pills of the “lower-cost” generic drug still costs $18,275, according to the Elsevier drug prices database.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who has long railed against too-high drug prices, eagerly pounced with a statement on his Facebook page: “Teva Pharmaceutical’s new generic version of the drug Syprine… will cost $18,375 for a bottle of 100 pills. That’s 28 times what Syprine cost in 2010. We have a crisis in drug prices in this country, where pharmaceutical companies are able to charge whatever they want. We need a Congress and a president that is willing to stand up to the power of the pharmaceutical industry. The future of drug prices in America comes down to this: Do we have the guts to stand up to drug companies who are ripping us off?”
The New York Times also chimed in, opining that “Nearly three years after Valeant’s egregious price increases ignited public outrage, the story of Syprine highlights just how hard it can be to bring down drug prices once they’ve been set at stratospheric levels. Despite efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to encourage more competition for drugs that have no generic alternatives, companies like Teva will still charge as much as the market will bear as long as there is no significant competition.”
The paper of record also wrote, “Valeant was once a Wall Street favorite that kept investors happy by buying up old, off-patent drugs like Syprine, sharply raising their prices, and investing little in research and development. That changed in 2015, when questions were raised about the impact this strategy was having on patients… Congressional and federal investigations into the company’s practices followed, leading to a plummeting stock and the departure of the chief executive and major investors.”
Teva spokesperson Kaelan Hollon commented to the Times, “If there is more competition and ample supply, pricing will continue to fall.”
The desire to bring drug prices down is a bipartisan one. In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump said that he wants his administration “to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities.” He predicted, “Prices will come down.”
By: Harlan Koffler