This fall, Turing Pharmaceuticals head and self-proclaimed Twitter troll Martin Shkreli announced he was raising the price of a anti-parasite drug Daraprim 5,500%, from $13.50 to $750, citing the effects of scarcity.
Last month, rival drugmaker Imprimis said it had created an alternative to the drug that would only cost $1.
But to compete on the open market against Turing, it would need the cooperation of actual pharmacies.
“This could become a solution for the vast majority of patients,” Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer of Express Scripts, told the Times.
Because of intellectual property laws, Imprimis cannot make a direct copy of Daraprim. So instead, it makes a drug with Daraprim's active ingredient, and adds another that controls its side effects.
But this drug, referred to as a compounded drug, must be prescribed in specific formulations to named patients. So to avoid prescribing Daraprim, the Times says, doctors will have to write a prescription specifically for Imprimis' drug and fax it to Imprimis to have it created.
Still, it represents a neat way around of Shkreli's scheme.
“From our perspective, it’s a tremendous endorsement of the business model” of offering alternatives to high-priced drugs, Mark L. Baum, chief executive of Imprimis, told the Times.
Shkreli did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.