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WASHINGTON — A company that makes a medication increasingly touted as a promising coronavirus treatment, known as chloroquine, doubled the drug’s price in late 2019 — but says it has now cut the price in half, to its original level, in response to the pandemic.

Rising Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey-based drug company, hiked the price of its chloroquine phosphate tablets 98% between December 2019 and January 2020, according to data provided to STAT by the publishing and analytics company Elsevier, from roughly $3.87 to $7.66 for a 250-milligram tablet.

The price hikes, however, came months before the coronavirus outbreak morphed into a global pandemic, and well before physicians and scientists came to believe chloroquine might prove an effective treatment.

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In the past two weeks, Rising Pharmaceuticals slashed the price in half as interest in the drug — normally used as an antimalarial — erupted.

“Once this whole issue started to explode with regard to the pandemic, we implemented a price decrease to effectively revert back to 2015 pricing across all customers,” Ira Baeringer, the company’s chief operating officer, said in an interview. After this story’s publication, Baeringer said the company was slashing the price again, to 20% below the 2015 level.

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In a chaotic press conference on Thursday, President Trump even touted the drug as a coronavirus treatment, saying the medication was “approved for prescription,” though the drug is labeled exclusively for use as an antimalarial. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, appeared to contradict the president almost immediately, saying any analysis of the drug’s efficacy as a coronavirus treatment should be conducted “in a setting of a clinical trial.”

Chloroquine phosphate has been manufactured as an antimalarial treatment since the late 1940s. But in the last month, it has shown some promise treating patients with the novel coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes, known as Covid-19. Baeringer stressed that despite the newfound interest, Rising Pharmaceuticals is not marketing the drug as a Covid-19 treatment.

Baeringer said the initial price increases came after the company “made significant investments in ramping up capacity,” and were a response to the “small and rapidly declining volume in the market.”

The company first hiked the price of a 50-pill bottle of 250-milligram tablets to $383.08 in December 2019, according to the Elsevier database. Following the price reduction, the company will now charge $193.61 for the same quantity — roughly the same as its price before December.

Rising Pharmaceuticals’ price cut also comes as the drug giant Bayer announced it would donate 3 million tablets of chloroquine phosphate to the U.S. government.

The company’s price hike capped a tumultuous 2019 for the Rising Pharmaceuticals brand. In April, its parent company Aceto Pharmaceuticals sold the subsidiary for $15 million as part of a bankruptcy filing. And in early December, the previous management group agreed to pay $3 million in restitution for conspiring to fix the price of a blood pressure drug between 2014 and 2015 — part of a long-running, 44-state investigation of generic drug industry price-fixing.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the Rising Pharmaceuticals price-fixing settlement was agreed to by the brand’s previous owners. It has also been updated to reflect an additional price drop for chloroquine, announced after the story was first published. 

 

  • From the article above: “Baeringer said the initial price increases came after the company “made significant investments in ramping up capacity,” and were a response to the “small and rapidly declining volume in the market.”” I’m having trouble understanding why would a company make significant investments in ramping up capacity if the market for that drug was small and rapidly declining. What am I missing, or was this Rising Pharma Shrkeli-ing?

  • It costs around PKR 0.71 / tab in Pakistan and S1.00 is equal to approx PKR 158 currently so prices in US are ridiculous!

    • It’s not even the prices in the US. It’s the obtainability.
      The pills should be able to be prescribed to high risk patients in anticipation of infection.

      That’s my opinion. Do you need a prescription in PK for this pill?

  • In some cases it has been found that chloroquine therapy is respocible for aplasia and and heamatoligical effects,
    Please some one clear this problem is chloroquine therpy have mutation effects?
    Ref: reseaech article of chloroquine

  • Malaria had been eradicated from India for a decade and staged a comeback during year 1971. Since 1971, several avtars of fever afflicted India. Viral fever, Dengue fever, Chikungunya – all began as killers. With time we learnt how to coexist with those diseases. Corona Virus showed up during recent months. That engulfed the entire World. The world would soon learn how to coexist with Corona Virus.
    Since year 1971, Chloroquine has been my default drug in fever cases. Viral fever, Dengue fever, Chikungunya – all political entities responded to Chloroquine. By simple mathemathics, there can be two possibilities :-
    1. New avtars of fever during consecutive years were new variants of malaria.
    2. Chloroquine known as antimalarial, may be nonspecific fever drug, effective also against Viral fever, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, and now Corona Virus.
    Chloroquine is a harmless drug with single dose required in endemic population and 5 tablet (double strength) course required elsewhere.
    Immunity boosters in routine and Chloroquine at first fever sign may be a magic mantra to make the World Corona free. Dr K Chaudhry http://immunity.indianmedical.net

  • In India it 11 rupees per five tablets of 500 MG. Price us equivalent to 14 cents. I don’t understand why US company charging more than a 1000 times higher.

  • This drug is also used for arthritis, especially in the elderly, without kidney and liver monitoring. It does have vision and possibly other side effects. In December, I was stunned by the rise in cost and then the drop that made no sense in late January. So now it does.

  • In a peer-reviewed study (Tucker Carlson Wed. 3/18/20) a French MD/PHD, “the most respected infectious disease specialist in the world,” reported a 100% cure rate in a study of 40 people using chloroquine, a drug that has been on the market for more than 50 years, cheap, effective AND AVAILABLE NOW! Lets put the world BACK TO WORK!!!

    • At nearly $200 for 50 pills, still not what I’d call cheap, especially for something that’s been around 50 years. If they just need to recoup the cost of the plant to make pills, considering that this may be a frontline treatment for cov19….they know they’re gonna make millions of pills to recoup costs of making them, there is no need to get greedy…no patent on old drug.

    • Amen! We can’t afford to wait and there’s no need to. Right to Try applies as well here. Get this done!

    • Alan Wakefield, are you flacking for the American company that is profiteering from the generic drug in question?

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