AMERICAN pharmaceuticals company Turing Pharmaceuticals has been met with controversy after it increased the cost of one of its recently-acquired prescription drugs Daraprim, which people living with AIDS use, from $13.50 USD  per pill to $750 USD per pill.

Daraprim is a prescription drug used by doctors who treat patients with AIDS and cancer to combat a parasite that attacks people with a weakened immune system.

The parasite, known as the toxoplasma, comes from eating under-cooked meat, cooking with contaminated knives and boards, drinking unclean water or contact with infected cat feces.

Daraprim fights toxoplasmosis, the second most common food-borne disease, which can easily infect people whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS, chemotherapy or even pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The drug, which has been around 62 years, is available in Australia as a generic for $25 per box of 50.

The founder and chief executive of the New York-based Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, told The New York Times that the price increase of Daraprim in the US would affect only a small number of people, citing the rare use of the drug as the reason.

Shkreli also said the price increase brings Daraprim in line with other drugs for rare diseases and part of the profits would go towards developing better alternative treatments with fewer side effects.

In response to the news, Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted her disapproval on the 5455 per cent price increase of the prescription drug:

 

 

Defending his company’s decision to increase the price of Daraprim, Shkreli explained to US news channel CNBC that the price hike was needed for business reasons.

“Turing is a very small company, it’s a new company and we’re not a profitable company,” the chief executive said.

“So for us to try to exist and maintain a profit, I think is pretty reasonable.”

When asked if he would consider lowering the price because “doctors and patient groups are saying they can’t access this drug”, Shkreli responded with one word: “No.”

News of the price increase of Daraprim in the US comes on the back of a growing trend of businesses acquiring old, neglected drugs, often for rare diseases, and turning them into costly “specialty” drugs.

Watch the interview below:

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