Drugmaker rethinks its decision to double price of a generic after Trump calls it a coronavirus lifesaver — reports
After President Trump on Thursday implied a decades-old malaria drug was sanctioned by the FDA to fight the new coronavirus, reports emerged that late last year the drug’s maker doubled the price of the compound, but has now restored the original price tag as the virus envelops much of the globe.
Made by New Jersey-based Rising Pharmaceuticals — the drug, called chloroquine phosphate — saw a hike of roughly 98% to $7.66 for a 250 mg tablet, STAT and the Financial Times reported, citing data from research and publishing firm Elsevier.
As FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn was forced to clarify that the drug was still being evaluated for use against coronavirus on Thursday, the company suggested the price hike came months ahead of the outbreak snowballed into a pandemic, and before researchers began to speculate it might help infected patients.
The company — which in December agreed to pay a fine of more than $3 million after being charged with conspiring to fix prices for a generic hypertension drug — has reverted back to chloroquine phosphate’s original price set in 2015.
“As soon as we saw the increase in demand and the potential that this was going to be utilized in the way some folks are projecting it to be, we rescinded that price increase to the same price it has been on the market for since 2015,” an executive told the FT.
Although the drug is being used as part of compassionate use programs in some countries, there is no definitive evidence suggesting it helps patients infected with the new coronavirus, although even Tesla founder Elon Musk — who has previously suggested the “danger of panic” still far exceeds the danger of coronavirus — has taken notice of its promise.
Maybe worth considering chloroquine for C19 https://t.co/LEYob7Jofr
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 16, 2020
The drug, now a generic, is derived from the bark of the chinchona tree and has been in use since World War II. It is understood to be generally safe in mild-to-moderate cases, but can be toxic at high doses. Apart from its use against malaria, an illness caused by a parasite and spread to humans via mosquito bites, the medicine is also deployed for use in certain autoimmune conditions.
Early data emerging out of France, testing a less toxic derivative of chloroquine — hydroxychloroquine — on a few dozen patients with Covid-19, suggest it may help curb the period that people with the disease are infectious. Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has also suggested that chloroquine phosphate should be included in the standard Covid-19 regimen, after showing promising results in trials across 10 hospitals.
On Thursday, German drugmaker Bayer announced in a press release that it was donating 3 million tablets of its version of chloroquine phosphate for use in US patients.
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