If you would like to take niacin, a B vitamin that is believed to lower cholesterol and the chance of having a heart attack, you could buy a month’s supply online for about $5. Or you could get a prescription for a bottle of virtually the same pills for almost $300, thanks to a pharmaceutical company using price gouging tactics similar to those of Pharma Bro Marin Shkrelli, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Since biotech felon Shkrelli became mired in controversy after his company raised the price of a drug used by cancer and HIV patients by 5,500 percent, there have been fewer instances of grotesque buy-and-rise deals in the world of Big Pharma. But some under-the-radar firms are still acquiring patents and immediately gouging.
Avondale Pharmaceuticals recently acquired Niacor, a prescription version of niacin, and increased the price of a bottle of 100 tablets from $32.46 to $295, FT reports. The company was formed in August and has no online presence, but state records show that it is based in Alabama. Acrogen Pharmaceuticals, which is the registered agent for Avondale, did not respond to a request by Gizmodo for comment.
FT was also not able to get a comment from anyone associated with Avondale or Acrogen, which was started last year by Mark Pugh, an executive behind a several pharmaceutical companies (all of which seem to start with the letter “A”: Alora, Acella, Avion, Alliant). The financial news outlet was able to confirm the price increase through the drug price databases of Elsevier and Truven Health Analytics.
While niacin is available over the counter, some healthcare professionals prefer prescription versions that have US Food and Drug Administration approval. There are other prescription versions of niacin, but Niacor is the only one that isn’t extended-release, according to FT. Last year, there were about 19,000 Niacor prescriptions in the US. Avondale seems to have been established just to acquire Niacor and the respiratory drug SSKI from Upsher Smith, a Japan pharmaceutical company.
“This is the latest example of an inefficient US market where the consumer, payer, and doctor don’t have all of the information available to make a financially sound choice,” Michael Rae, CEO of Rx Savings, a company that builds software to find lower price on drugs, told FT. “They are caught in a web of inefficiency and are being taken advantage of.”
Since price increases are not usually public, doctors who have been prescribing Niacor likely do not know about the steep price increase.