The owners of a patent of a medication for people with HIV tripled the drug’s price as it tried to get it approved for use for coronavirus to over $2000 for a bottle of pills.
Jaguar Health is a small pharmaceutical company that produces only one FDA-approved drug: crofelemer, marketed as Mytesi. Mytesi is used to treat diarrhea that can be caused by anti-viral drugs, specifically Remdesivir, which has shown some promise in helping people with coronavirus survive.
On March 21, Jaguar asked the FDA to approve Mytesi for COVID-19 patients with “diarrhea associated with certain antiviral treatments.”
On April 7, the FDA rejected the request.
On April 9, they raised the price of a 60-pill bottle of Mytesi from a pricey $668.52 to a gobsmacking $2,206.52.
CEO Lisa Conte told Axios that the company had already decided to raise the price of Mytesi this past December and they would have done it anyway, whether or not there was a coronavirus pandemic. The company told federal regulators earlier this month that there is “substantial doubt” that they’ll be able to continue operations because they just aren’t profitable.
“The reimbursement barriers are so huge,” said Conte about why the drug isn’t making money. “It’s impossible for us to make a business out of it.”
She said that the company would not have raised the drug’s price if it had been approved for coronavirus, but even if it was approved, it’s “likely” that they would have raised its price after the pandemic was over.
The price increase “is absolutely the right decision for everyone,” she said.
Jaguar’s website says that it is “committed to discovering, developing, and commercializing plant-based prescription medicines for urgent global health needs.”