The Case for Expensive Antibiotics

WIRED | 9/19/2018 | Maryn McKenna
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A handful of years ago, a small pharmaceutical company quietly acquired the rights to an old but commonly used antibiotic. Few noticed until last week, when the new owner did something that’s recently become common in the world of pharmaceuticals: It abruptly raised the price. A lot.

The manufacturer is called Nostrum Laboratories, and the drug for which it hiked the price—by more than 400 percent—is called nitrofurantoin. It’s a name that probably means nothing to most, but is precious to the 6 to 8 million Americans who get urinary tract infections every year. Nitrofurantoin treats bladder infections, and Nostrum’s version is a liquid, used for children, elderly patients, and anyone who can’t swallow a pill.

Community - Societies - Diseases - Society - America

The medical community is furious: Two professional societies, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, called the hike “cynical opportunism” and “opportunistic greed in its most indefensible form.” The company CEO has been unimpressed, telling the Financial Times: “We have to make money when we can.”

Maryn McKenna (@marynmck is an Ideas contributor for WIRED, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, and the author of Big Chicken.

Nitrofurantoin - World - Health - Organization - List

Nitrofurantoin is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. It’s been on the market since 1953, developed by a company called Shionogi Pharmaceuticals. Like reviled (and now imprisoned) pharma executive Martin Shkreli, who acquired a cheap antiparasitic drug named Daraprim and inflated its price from $13.50 to $750 per pill, Nostrum and its chief executive Nirman Mulye spotted a commodity they thought was underpriced, and raised it as high as they thought the market would bear.

There’s a lot that’s outrageous in the story of nitrofurantoin: about patients who aren’t a priority in medicine, about predatory pricing, about the government’s inability to force those prices back. But there’s also...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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