Daranide, a 1958 drug, used to be free – now it costs your insurer at least $109,500/year

Daranide is a drug that was approved for treating glaucoma in 1958; the public domain drug's manufacture has shifted around for decades, sending its price soaring and plummeting from $0.50/dose to $1365, down to free, and now to $109,500, courtesy of Strongbridge Biopharma, new owners of Taro Pharmaceutical Industries, who started making the drug after Merck discontinued its production.

An investor presentation from Strongbridge Biopharma prices a year's supply of Daranide (now called Keveyis) at $109,500 to $219,000, with the expectation that the brunt of this will be borne by US health insurers, including Medicaid and Medicare, which are prohibited by law from bargaining for lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies. The company often gives it away free to uninsured people, to minimize the risk of popular demand for lower prices.

The major use for this drug today is to treat "periodic paralysis" which is just as bad as it sounds.

For patients, this is a double-edged sword. The company is selling the drug in the United States — a big improvement over the years when it wasn't available at all or had to be imported. And like nearly every drug company with a high-priced treatment, it offers patients support in navigating their insurance or help in paying for the drug.

Anderson, for example, pays nothing. Anderson said Keveyis is not on his insurer's list of covered drugs, but he gets it free without a co-pay. Providing help to patients in affording drugs by paying co-pays, helping overcome insurance barriers and even giving it away free of charge helps individual patients, and it insulates the drug company from criticism of its price.

This old drug was free. Now it's $109,500 a year [Carolyn Y. Johnson/LA Times]

(via Naked Capitalism)