Price of Teva’s new rare disease generic shocks patients Posted 02/03/2018

On 9 February 2018, Israeli generics giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (Teva) announced the launch of its generic version of Syprine (trientine hydrochloride) capsules, 250 mg, in the US. However, what the company termed a ‘lower-cost generic alternative’ has turned out to be almost as expensive as the originator product.

The originator product, Syprine, treats a rare condition known as Wilson disease which sees copper build up in the liver, brain and other tissues. The drug is made by Valeant Pharmaceutical Industries (Valeant), which has been at the centre of pricing controversy in the US due to its strategy of acquiring companies and then selling their products at higher prices [1]. And it appears that Syprine is no exception to Valeant’s strategy. Despite it being a drug that has been around since the 1960s, in 2015, Valeant raised the price for a bottle of 100 tablets to US$21,267 from US$652 in 2010.

Therefore, when Teva announced the launch of its generic version of Syprine the news seemed like a welcome development for people taking old drugs that have skyrocketed in price. However, what Teva did not mention in its press release was that its new generic will cost US$18,375 for a bottle of 100 pills, according to Elsevier’s drug prices database. That makes it a cheaper alternative by US$3,000 less and means it costs 28 times what Syprine cost in 2010. This is hardly the discount many patients were expecting.

Pricing is the foremost issue facing the pharmaceutical industry, and is especially prominent in the US. Some policies suggested to address price rises in old generics include expanding compounding (where pharmacies prepare patient-specific formulations of mixtures of drugs), introducing reference pricing and that the US Food and Drug Administration should offer incentives to encourage more generics of old drugs onto the market [2]. 

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References
1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Drug pricing to remain a challenge for the industry [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2018 Mar 2]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Reports/Drug-pricing-to-remain-a-challenge-for-the-industry
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Policies to address price rises in old generics [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2018 Mar 2]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/Research/Policies-to-address-price-rises-in-old-generics

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Source: Globes, NYTimes, Teva

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