NEW YORK — An Irish drug maker was accused of slowly hiking the price of a life-saving medication used to treat infants from $40 a vial to more than $34,000 a vial, and preventing other pharmaceutical firms from creating a competitive drug.
The company, Mallinckrodt, agreed Wednesday to settle charges of anti-competitive practices by paying a $100 million fine and allow a competitor to produce a similar medication.
The Federal Trade Commission announced that the deal was reached with the FTC and three state attorney generals.
The drug, H.P. Acthar Gel, is used to treat infantile spasms and multiple sclerosis. A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who was involved in the settlement — said the drug is typically prescribed in “life-saving situations.”
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Schneiderman’s office said Mallinckrodt’s U.S. subsidiary — formerly known as Questcor — purchased Acthar in 2001 and proceeded to slowly raise the price of the drug 85,000%. The complaint says a single course of treatment can cost “well over $100,000.”
The complaint also alleges that Questcor thwarted attempts by its competitors to introduce a similar drug to the U.S. market by out-bidding their efforts to acquire Synacthem, which is used to treat the same conditions, in 2013.
Now, the company must give up its rights to Synacthem and allow another company to produce the product.
“This is an egregious case of a monopolist doing a deal to eliminate potential competition and keep its power over pricing,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “This settlement will restore the competition that was prevented by Questcor’s illegal actions.”
Mallinckrodt shares plummeted nearly 14% during trading hours Wednesday before ending the day down 6% from the open.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Mallinckrodt said, “We are pleased to confirm that we have entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC staff to fully resolve this matter, subject to approval by the commission. We will comment further at the appropriate time.”
President-elect Trump recently said drug companies were “getting away with murder” in their pricing.
The issue also attracted attention during the presidential campaign last year when Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders lambasted pharma CEO Martin Shkreli for vaulting the price of an HIV treatment drug by 5,000%.
EpiPen-maker Mylan was also acccused of price gouging last August when it hiked the price of the life-saving allergy treatment by 400% since 2009.