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True Costs: The patients at health centers affected by drug price increases

MCNIn August, the cost of Daraprim was raised from $13.50 to $750 per pill. The drug, known generically as Pyrimethamine, does not have a generic currently on the market. Last month, the news of the 5000 percent price increase went viral on social media, splashed across major newspapers, spurred conversation amongst politicians and a presidential candidate, and even made it into the world of satire on Saturday Night Live. In response, Turing Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers who had recently acquired Daraprim and soon after raised the price, promised to reduce the price, once it determined what a fair price would be. As of this writing, the price remains at $750. Under Department of Human Health and Services guidelines, a recommended course of acute therapy for immunocompromised patients would cost $364,500 for the Daraprim pills alone, up from $6,561.

Additionally, the drug is under a tightly controlled distribution system, which has created serious additional hurdles for patients and hospitals in obtaining the drug.

Pyrimethamine is the recommended first line treatment regimen for HIV patients with Toxoplasmic encephalitis, a parasitic infection that can result in severe and sometimes life-threatening issues.   

This directly impacts patients at federally qualified health centers. Approximately 16,000 patients with HIV were served in FQHCs last year. A small percentage of those patients were prescribed Daraprim to combat serious and debilitating opportunistic infections. Physicians around the country are already reporting inability to obtain the drug, both because of distribution troubles and the price. 

In response, Migrant Clinicians Network recently signed onto a letter to raise awareness among the health care community on the impact on our patients as a result of this issue. The letter has been endorsed by 163 organizations representing 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The full text of the letter, which has been sent to Turing, is available here

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