The greedy, price-pushing ways of Turing, Mylan, Valent, and countless others are breaking out like stains across the face of the pharmaceutical industry. It should come as no surprise, then, that the price of a simple acne cream called Aloquin hit a whopping $9,561 (£7,400) last week.
The 60g tube of zit-zapping topical used to cost just $241.50, but that was months ago, before Chicago-based Novum Pharma bought the drug from Primus Pharmaceuticals in May 2015 and didn’t change the product at all. Since then, Novum has raised the price three times to a 3,900 percent increase.
Like many drugs that have seen huge and sudden price increases, Aloquin is old and cheap to make. It consists of two main ingredients: iodoquinol, a generic, long-standing antibiotic; and extracts from the aloe vera plant. As the Financial times points out that a similar cream with iodoquinol costs less than $30, and aloe vera extracts only a few dollars.
However, Aloquin has one striking difference from other drugs that has led to furious price increases. Namely, Aloquin, used to treat acne and eczema, is not a life saver or even all that effective drug. The Food and Drug Administration has called it “possibly effective,” meaning there’s little clinical data to indicate it’s safe and that it works. That’s in stark contrast to Mylan’s EpiPens, which effectively curb deadly allergic reactions, and Turing’s Daraprim, which cures a parasitic infection and is often given to babies and patients with HIV/AIDS. Those drugs saw their prices rise by more than 500 percent and 5,000 percent, respectively.
Still, Novum’s price hikes will curtail customers who may rely on the cream. (It has also raised the prices of other products it has bought.) The drugmaker, like the others, offers coupons to save customers from high out-of-pocket costs. However, the remaining costs are often passed on to insurance companies, which in turn contributes to rising premiums that customers pay.
If only there was a cream for this.