Tuesday 12 December 2017

US drug company hikes price of everyday vitamin pills by 800%

US drug manufacturer has increased the price of a bottle of vitamins - a generic version of which can be bought for around $5 - by more than 800 per cent.
In the latest example of eye-dropping price-gouging in the US’s lightly regulated pharmaceutical industry, records show Avondale Pharmaceuticals, a mysterious company registered in Alabama, raised the price of Niacor from $32.46 to $295.
Niacor is a prescription version of niacin, a type of vitamin B3 that is frequently used to treat high blood cholesterol. A wide range of generic versions of the vitamin are available; Walmart sells a jar of 100 tablets for $14.99 while other brands are available online for even less. 
The development will for many recall the controversy surrounding the investor and entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who became the so-called “most hated man in the US” after he bought the rights to a drug used to treat people with Aids and increased the price by almost 5,000 per cent.
Shkreli, a former pharmaceutical executive, was convicted in August of two counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy for misleading investors in hedge funds he ran. He is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.
The Financial Times said Avondale Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Niacor from Upsher Smith, a division of Japan’s Sawai Pharmaceutical, earlier this year. The company also bought the rights to a drug used to treat respiratory ailments, known as SSKI, and increased the price by 2,469 per cent, raising the cost of a 30ml bottle from $11.48 to $295. 
Avondale Pharmaceuticals does not have a website and lists its address as a business park in Mountain View, a suburb on Birmingham, Alabama. The registered agent for the company is Acrogen Pharmaceuticals, which was set up in 2016 by Mark Pugh.
When The Independent visited the registered address, the suite said to be the company’s office was empty. People working in neighbouring offices said the suite had been vacant for some time and that they were not aware of any pharmaceutical companies or of Mr Pugh.
Mr Pugh’s Linkedin page says he is currently the CEO of Acella Pharmaceuticals, which lists its address in Alpharetta, north of Atlanta, Georgia. Nobody at that company responded to calls or emails.
The price increases were confirmed to The Independent by Truven Health Analytics, a Michigan-based company that monitors and provides healthcare data and analytics. It is part of the IBM Watson Health business. 
The firm said the increases for both products took place on November 13 of this year.
A 2014 biography of Mr Pugh on the website of Avion Pharmaceuticals, which has the same address as Acella Pharmaceuticals, lists him as the firm’s CEO. 
It adds: “As Chief Executive Officer, Mark Pugh oversees the overall growth and development of Avion Pharmaceuticals. Drawing from more than 20 years of industry experience, Mr Pugh has a documented record of success in identifying and capturing new business opportunities to build high-profit, highgrowth corporations.”
The FT said many doctors will be unaware the price of Niacor, for which 19,000 prescriptions were written last year, has so drastically increased because such announcements are not always made public or announced to the medial profession. 
Michael Rea, chief executive of Rx Savings, which makes software to help people find cheaper medicine, told the newspaper: “This is the latest example of an inefficient US market where the consumer, payer and doctor don’t have all of the information available to make a financially sound choice.”

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