The CEO of a small pharmaceutical company defended raising the price of an essential antibiotic by more than 400 percent, telling the… Financial times that he thinks “it’s a moral requirement to make money when you can.”
Nirmal Mulye, CEO of small Missouri-based drug company Nostrum Laboratories, raised the price of a bottle of nitrofurantoin from $474.75 to $2,392 last month. The drug is a decades-old antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections caused by: Escherichia coli and certain other Gram-negative bacteria. The World Health Organization lists nitrofurantoin as an essential drug.
In an interview with the FTMulye went on to say that it was also a “moral requirement” to “sell the product for the highest price,” explaining that he was in “this business to make money.”
In line with this perspective, Mulye took a moment to defend Martin Shkreli, who rose to fame buying exclusive rights to another decades-old drug and relentlessly increased its price by more than 5,000 percent almost overnight. (Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison in March on unrelated charges of fraud.)
I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug, he was in his right because he had to reward his shareholders… If he’s the only one selling it, he can make as much money as he can. We should make money if we can. The price of iPhones is going up, the price of cars is going up, hotel rooms are very expensive.
Mulye also noted that rival drug company Casper Pharma increased the price of its branded version of nitrofurantoin, called Furadantin. Casper increased the price by 182 percent in three years – between 2015 and 2018 – bringing the list price of a bottle to $2,800.
Nostrum’s version is “still a saver, be it a big one or not,” Mulye noted.
Finally, Mulye attacked the Food and Drug Administration, calling the fees drug makers pay the regulator “highway robbery” and claiming the agency was “incompetent and corrupt.”
In a tweeted commentFDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb reneged on Mulye’s “moral demand” claim, writing:
[T]there is no moral obligation to compromise and take advantage of patients. FDA will continue to promote competition so that speculators and those disregarding the public health implications cannot take advantage of patients in need of drugs.
Both Gottlieb and Mulye noted that Nostrum’s antibiotic was taken off the market — as well as rivals like Furadantin — to comply with the FDA’s new impurity regulations. Nostrum has yet to begin resending the drug, and Mulye warned the price could change again “according to market conditions.”