May 4, 2020 / 4:19 PM / in a month

Congresswomen urge Jaguar Health to reverse price hike on drug that may be used in COVID-19 patients

(Reuters) - Two congresswomen wrote a letter Monday urging drugmaker Jaguar Health Inc to reverse recent price hikes on its drug Mytesi, which could be used to alleviate side effects in patients being treated for COVID-19.

FILE PHOTO - Chairwoman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) leads a hearing about coronavirus preparedness and response on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The letter, signed by House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, criticized Jaguar for what it said was a nearly threefold price increase on the drug, from $688.52 to $2,206.52 per bottle of pills, earlier this month.

The letter asked the company to provide all communications pertaining to the price increases to the Committee on Oversight and Reform by May 18.

“We are concerned that the nearly three-fold price increase your company imposed ... may prevent Americans from accessing Mytesi if it is approved for use during the current coronavirus outbreak,” the letter said.

Jaguar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco, California-based Jaguar’s Mytesi is currently approved for use in addressing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms in patients being treated for HIV or AIDs with antiretroviral drugs.

In March, Jaguar applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use Mytesi to treat similar symptoms in coronavirus patients, who are also sometimes being treated with antiretroviral drugs, which reduce the severity of viral infections.

The application was denied by the FDA last month, but Jaguar Health has reportedly been in ongoing talks with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases about the effectiveness of Mytesi for coronavirus patients, the letter said.

“The timing of Jaguar’s price increase raises questions about whether this decision was connected with the company’s expectation that it eventually could market Mytesi to treat coronavirus patients,” the letter said.

Gilead Science Inc’s remdesivir was recently given FDA authorization to be an antiviral treatment for COVID-19, making it the first drug to be approved by U.S. regulators as a treatment for the illness, which has infected more than 1 million people in the United States and killed more than 65,000.

Remdesivir was originally developed as a treatment for the Ebola virus. Other antiviral drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, have also been used off-label to treat patients with the coronavirus.

Reporting by Carl O'Donnell; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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