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Express Scripts to offer $1 Daraprim competitor to beneficiaries

Last week, Turing said it would cut the price of Daraprim by 50 percent to hospitals.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Martin Shkreli (from Twitter)Martin Shkreli (from Twitter)

Pharmacy benefit company Express Scripts is partnering with Imprimis Pharmaceuticals to offer $1 a pill alternative to Daraprim, a drug owned by Martin Shkreli's company, Turing Pharmaceutical.

San Diego-base Imprimis is offering a compounded oral formulation of pyrimethamine -- the primary ingredient in Daraprim -- and leucovorin, a form of folic acid, for $1 per capsule for people whose pharmacy benefit is managed by Express Scripts of St. Louis.

[Also: Daraprim competitor to market $1 pill after Turing chief Martin Shkreli hikes price]

Shkreli came under critical fire earlier this year for upping the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to to $750 a tablet after buying the drug from another company. He defended the price hike as necessary to developing a better drug with fewer side effects than one that had been on the market for over 50 years.

Last week, Turing said it would cut the price of Daraprim by 50 percent to hospitals.

Daraprim treats toxoplasmosis, a potentially fatal disease for AIDs patients, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

[Also: Turing Pharmaceuticals to cut Daraprim costs for hospitals only]

This fall, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals said it would market a similar drug for just $1 a tablet. Imprimis and Express Scripts expect that prescriptions for the pyrimethamine and leucovorin will be processed starting as early as this week.

Physicians will be able to send a patient-specific prescription for the combination formulation of pyrimethamine and leucovorin to Imprimis, which is now a part of the Express Scripts pharmacy network. Imprimis will compound the two drugs together into an alternative for patients.

"We believe we now have an extremely cost-effective way to provide access to a Daraprim alternative. We will share our solution with other payers to make sure all appropriate patients around the country have access to the treatment they need at the lowest possible price," said Dr. Steve Miller, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts.

Express Scripts will promote the less expensive alternative to Daraprim to organizations such as the Infectious Disease Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, it said

Shreki's high profile price hike has caught the attention of Congress, and presidential campaigns, which have railed against the rising cost of prescription drugs.

On Wednesday, the Healthcare Supply Chain Association added its voice in urging Congress to address price spikes in the generic drug market. The HSCA wants Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to expedite review and approval of new drug applications for products where there are two or fewer manufacturers, or in instances where there have already been price spikes.

HSCA sent letters to the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse