Pharma Cash Cow: Old Medications, Lucrative Opportunities

In August of this year, the rights to the decades old drug Daraprim were purchased by pharmaceutical company Turing Pharmaceuticals.  Daraprim is the standard of care for treating toxoplasmosis and is used as well in treating HIV infections, cancers, and malaria.  Although the drug was previously sold at $13.50 per tablet, upon its purchase by Turing Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s price increased by over 5,000% to $750.00 per tablet, sparking mass outrage across the internet.

The CEO of Turner Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager, responded to the widespread criticism of the price increase by providing several reasons for the pricing structure change.  In particular, Mr. Shkreli cited the need to keep the company’s manufacturing costs competitive and to raise capital for the development of new medications to treat toxoplasmosis.  However, medical professionals indicate that there is no need to develop new pharmaceuticals to treat toxoplasmosis and that the former price was profitable, albeit at a much smaller margin.

In response to the public outcry against the price hike, which included criticisms from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Turing Pharmaceuticals has reversed the price increase. However, Turing Pharmaceuticals is not the only pharmaceutical company to acquire an old medication and subsequently increase its price to boost profits.  Other drugs, such as Sovaldi, used to treat hepatitis C; Harvoni, a follow-on formulation of Sovaldi for hepatitis C; Retrophin, used to reduce kidney stones; and Cycloserine, used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis, have also been subjected to similar price increases. Congress is poised to inspect the recent trend in drug price increases, but until congressional action is taken, it appears public outcry will be the primary means of keeping more excessive increases at bay.

To read more about, this click on any of the following links:  LA Times, NBC, NBC News, CBS News

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Women Can Transmit HIV to Other Women via Intercourse per CDC

Recently, the CDC confirmed that females are capable of transmitting HIV to their female sex partners. Female to female transmission of HIV has been difficult to prove, though there have been reports of its occurrence in the past. Most often, this mode of transmission is difficult to substantiate because researchers are unable to rule out other risk factors, such as intravenous drug use or sexual contact with males. However, a recent case study of two women in a monogamous relationship, who did not have a history of intravenous drug use, allowed the researchers to rule out the more common risk factors. The CDC states that though this mode of transmission is rare, everyone should take appropriate preventative measures to guard against HIV.

Read more here.

The House Approves the HOPE Act

The House placed its stamp of approval on the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE), which passed the Senate in June of 2013. HOPE lifts the federal ban on the transplantation of HIV positive organs to HIV positive donees. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Organ Procurement Transplant Network are responsible for creating and implementing standards for research on the transplantation of HIV positive organs.

Read more here.

High HIV Levels Among Youth Per NIH

The primary mission of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions’ (ATN) is to “conduct both independent and collaborative research,”[1] which explores the best methods for prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS for at-risk youth, ages 12 to 24. In addition, the ATN offers a variety of treatment and preventative measures to at-risk adolescents. The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study recently, which monitored the health status of the participants in the ATN. The NIH reported that over 30 percent of the young men who had sex with men were found to have high levels of HIV upon their enrollment in the study.

As a result of its findings the NIH made several recommendations. The NIH states that health care workers that work with adolescents, especially males who have sex with males, should emphasize the importance of HIV/AIDS testing. However, the NIH maintains that women should be aware of the importance of testing and early diagnosis as well. The study suggests the possibility that the men are being tested and diagnosed earlier than women. Access the CDC’s list of at-risk individuals here.

Medical Marijuana for New Yorkers?

The Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would allow for a regulated medical marijuana program in New York, has support from New York City Comptroller John Liu. Mr. Liu released a report that over 100,000 NYC residents with serious, debilitating illnesses could benefit from the use of medical marijuana. Currently, twenty states, as well as the District of Columbia, have implemented programs that allow for regulated distribution of medical marijuana. According to a Siena poll conducted in May of 2013, approximately 82% of New York citizens support medical marijuana.

Read more here.