Two US senators have written to a pharmaceutical company that raised the price of an antibiotic by 400 per cent, demanding to know the reason for the dramatic increase.
Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Republican, on Thursday sent a letter to Nirmal Mulye, chief executive of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, after the Financial Times revealed the group had raised the price of a bottle of liquid nitrofurantoin from $474.75 to $2,392.
“This is a shocking price increase for a generic antibiotic that was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1953,” the senators wrote.
Ms McCaskill and Ms Collins were responding to a report in the FT this week, in which Mr Mulye said there was a “moral requirement to sell the product at the highest price”.
Mr Mulye also defended the actions of Martin Shkreli, the pharma executive who became infamous for raising the price of a life saving Aids and cancer drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill.
“I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,” Mr Mulye told the FT.
The senators said it was “troubling” that Mr Mulye had defended Shkreli, who has since been imprisoned on unrelated fraud charges.
The letter demanded that Mr Mulye provide answers to nine questions about his business and its strategy for nitrofurantoin, and asked him to respond by the end of the month.
Their condemnation of the price increase followed an intervention this week from Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the FDA, who had said: “There’s no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients. FDA will continue to promote competition so speculators and those with no regard to public health consequences can’t take advantage of patients who need medicine.”
Nitrofurantoin is an antibiotic used to treat bladder infections that was first marketed in 1953, which appears on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. It comes in a tablet form as well as a liquid version that Nostrum makes.
Mr Mulye said Nostrum had raised the price in response to an increase from rival company Casper Pharma, which makes a branded version of the product known as Furadantin. Casper increased the price of its product by 182 per cent between the end of 2015 and March 2018, taking a bottle to $2,800.
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