Company at center of drug pricing storm cuts cost of medicine

(Reuters) - Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that became a lightning rod for criticism over excessive price increases for older medicines, on Tuesday said it would cut the cost of its anti-infection drug to hospitals.

Privately-held Turing and its Chief Executive Martin Shkreli sparked outrage in September after it acquired the rights to a 62-year-old drug, Daraprim, and raised the price more than 5,000 percent to $750 a pill from $13.50.

The company said it will offer reductions of up to 50 percent off its previously announced price for hospitals, which handle about 80 percent of cases of toxoplasmosis encephalitis, the dangerous infection that Daraprim is used to treat.

Beginning early next year, Turing said it would offer smaller 30-pill bottles for hospitals to make it easier to stock Daraprim at a lower cost. It also said it will offer free starter packages to physicians in the community to improve access in emergency situations.

“Combined with our robust patient access programs, this is an important step in our commitment to ensure ready access to Daraprim at the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost for both hospitals and patients,” Turing Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Retzlaff said in a statement.

Even a 50 percent cut, to about $375 a pill, is likely to be viewed as too little to offset Turing’s earlier price hike for a decades old drug. It remains available in Europe for under $1 a pill.

Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Tom Brown