By Wayne Drash, CNN
A pharmaceutical company executive defended his company’s recent 400% drug price increase, telling the Financial Times that his company had a “moral requirement to sell the product at the highest price.” The head of the US Food and Drug Administration blasted the executive in a response on Twitter.
Nirmal Mulye, founder and president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, commented in a story Tuesday about the decision to raise the price of an antibiotic mixture called nitrofurantoin from about $500 per bottle to more than $2,300. The drug is listed by the World Health Organization as an “essential” medicine for lower urinary tract infections.
“I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can,” Mulye told the Financial Times, “to sell the product for the highest price.”
The Financial Times said Mulye compared his decision to increase the price to that of an art dealer who sells “a painting for half a billion dollars” and said he was in “this business to make money.”
According to the Financial Times, the executive defended “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, who was once dubbed the “most hated man in America” after his company raised the price of an AIDS drug by more than 5,000% in 2015. Shkreli was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud due to mismanaging money at his hedge funds.
“I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders,” Mulye was quoted as saying.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued a sharp rebuke of the CEO on Twitter shortly after the story published, saying “there’s no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients.”
Nostrum has not responded to a request for comment.
The Financial Times said that after its initial interview, Mulye followed up with a LinkedIn message with unusually harsh words for the FDA, calling the agency “incompetent and corrupt.”
The Trump administration has pledged to tackle the soaring costs of drug prices, with the president unveiling a plan in May to increase competition, reduce regulations and change incentives for players in the pharmaceutical industry.
When he announced his plan, President Donald Trump slammed drug makers, health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and others for profiting off American patients.
“The drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American patients,” Trump said.