A $750 Pill And Its Brash Owner Get Competition — And It Costs $1

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Turing Pharmaceuticals, a months-old biotech startup that is largely financed by its 32-year-old founder and CEO Martin Shkreli, sparked widespread outrage last month. The reason: shortly after paying $55 million for a 62-year-old drug called Daraprim that’s prescribed for toxoplasmosis and other types of infections, Turing repriced the drug from $13.50 per pill to a stunning $750 per pill.

Shkreli was wholly unapologetic about the move, too, tweeting, when asked how he was able to sleep at night, that he uses Ambien. We’d covered his somewhat stunning reaction to critics here.

Now, Shkreli — a former hedge fund manager who was ousted from his last company, Retrophin — is seemingly about to get a taste of his own medicine. Yesterday, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded, San Diego-based specialty pharmaceutical company, announced that it has created a customizable alternative to Daraprim that costs roughly $1 per pill.

“While we respect Turing’s right to charge patients and insurance companies whatever it believes is appropriate, there may be more cost-effective compounded options for medications, such as Daraprim, for patients, physicians, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to consider,” the company said in its statement.

Imprimis’ new compound is a combination of pyrimethamine along with another generic drug called leucovorin, a form of folic acid. It isn’t FDA-approved, though its specific ingredients are FDA-approved. As a result, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune, it can be sold through a doctor’s prescription to a specific individual.

Shkreli had founded Turing earlier this year, closing a $90 million Series A round in August that he reportedly led himself. It also included several other unnamed “preeminent institutional equity investors,” according to a statement.

Turing also took on some senior secured debt, which is unusual and may explain why it was eager to alter the pricing of Daraprim.

After coming under fire from critics, Shkreli told ABC News last month that, “We’ve agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit.”

As of two weeks ago, that still had not happened.

In the meantime, Turing posted an announcement earlier today, saying the FDA has cleared the way for the clinical trial of another of its drugs, one that treats epileptic encephalopathies.