Express Scripts offers $1 alternative to $750 pill

December 4, 2015

Months after a manufacturer drew widespread criticism from consumer groups and politicians for raising the price of pyrimethamine (Daraprim) by more than 5000%, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest PBM, has announced it will make the drug available for about $1 per pill.

Months after a manufacturer drew widespread criticism from consumer groups and politicians for raising the price of pyrimethamine (Daraprim) by more than 5000%, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest PBM, has announced it will make the drug available for about $1 per pill.

Last week Express Scripts announced a partnership with Imprimis Pharmaceuticals to provide a less-expensive alternative to Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug used to treat a rare parasitic infection.

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Imprimis, a California compounder, will create a formulation that includes the active ingredient in Daraprim. The compounded formulation will be sold for $99 for 100 pills. Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim earlier this year and raised its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

Several members of Congress demanded answers from the company, and the price hike gained the attention of several 2016 presidential candidates. Turing eventually announced it would lower its price for Daraprim.

Last week, Turing said would provide discounts up to 50% for hospitals and healthcare plans, and provide smaller bottles containing 30 tablets to lower the cost of stocking Daraprim.

"After the price of Daraprim went up so high, a lot of infectious disease doctors reached out to me about what could be done," Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, toldCNBC. "A couple weeks later, I read about what Imprimis was offering and thought: Could we make this really simple for doctors and patients to access?"

 

Express Scripts added Imprimis to its pharmacy network and said the company would start processing prescriptions immediately. The PBM has also vowed to work with organizations such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America to spread the word about the cheaper Daraprim alternative.

"We have the ability to buy the same exact chemicals and make the exact same formulations that are clinically relevant," Mark Baum, CEO of Imprimis, told CNBC.

Baum said Imprimis’ Daraprim alternative would be profitable at $1 a pill. According to IMS Health, about 8,800 prescriptions for Daraprim were written last year in the United States.