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Drug used in HIV treatment triples in price after being rejected for coronavirus use

Emma Powys Maurice April 26, 2020
HIV medications

Mytesi is used by HIV patients to treat diarrhoea caused by some antiviral treatments (Gideon Mendel/Corbis/Getty)

The patent owners of a HIV drug have tripled its price after failing to get its use approved for coronavirus treatment.

The drug crofelemer, marketed as Mytesi, is used to treat diarrhoea that can be caused by anti-viral drugs, specifically Remdesivir.

On March 21, drugmaker Jaguar Health asked the FDA to approve Mytesi for COVID-19 patients with “diarrhoea associated with certain antiviral treatments”.

The FDA rejected the request for undisclosed reasons on April 7, and just two days later Jaguar Health hiked up the cost of the drug. It previously cost $668.52, but now just one 60-pill bottle will set patients back a shocking $2,206.52.

The company’s CEO told Axios that Jaguar Health decided to raise the cost of Mytesi in December because it was losing too much money, reportedly generating less than $6 million of revenue last year.

She insisted the cost increase would have been held off if the FDA had approved it for emergency use.

Pharma CEO complains it’s ‘impossible’ to make business from HIV drug.

However, CEO Lisa Conte admitted the cost would “likely” have jumped anyway after the pandemic ended and the emergency use period lapsed.

“The reimbursement barriers are so huge,” she claimed when asked why the drug isn’t making money. “It’s impossible for us to make a business out of it.”

The price increase “is absolutely the right decision for everyone”, she said.

This isn’t the first time critical drugs needed by HIV patients have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the early days of the crisis, scientists reported tentative success in treating coronavirus patients with two HIV drugs, sparking fear that misinformation about the virus could cause a run on life-saving medications.

Unfortunately a clinical trial showed “no benefit… beyond standard care”, but with healthcare workers still fearing a run on critical stocks, GPs in Australia were advised to rein in the number of prescriptions they issued for HIV patients.

More: antiviral treatment, Coronavirus, COVID-19, hiv treatment, HIV/AIDS, Jaguar Health, Mytesi

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