US drug company hiked price of acne cream by 3,900% in less than 18 months

Activists rally during a protest against the price of EpiPens, outside the office of hedge fund manager John Paulson, on 30 August 2016 in New York City.

A US drug company has increased the price of an acne cream by more than 3,900% to $9,561 in less than 18 months in the latest example of drug “price gouging”, which has enraged the American public and become a central topic of debate in the presidential election campaign.

Novum Pharma, a recently formed privately held Chicago-based company, bought the rights to drug Aloquin in May 2015. The 60g cream, which contains two cheap ingredients, was sold by its previous owner, Primus Pharmaceuticals, for $241.50.

Novum almost immediately increased the price by 1,100%, and hiked the price higher still in January 2016. Figures seen by the Financial Times show the company increased the price a third time last week to take the cost to $9,561.

The revelation of the latest huge drug price hike on Wednesday comes as the US Congress prepares to grill the chief executive of Mylan, the company that increased the price of the allergic reaction treatment EpiPen by more than 500%.

So-called “price gouging”, in which companies buy the rights to older drugs and then vastly increase their cost, has provoked outrage across the country and led to calls for reform of the US healthcare system.

Martin Shkreli, a hedge fund manager-turned-pharmaceutical boss, was dubbed “the world’s most hated man” after he increased the price of a drug used to treat patients with HIV by 5,000%.

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, vowed that if elected she would fine companies for price gouging. “It’s time to move beyond talking about these price hikes and start acting to address them,” she said. “All Americans deserve full access to the medications they need – without being burdened by excessive, unjustified costs.”

Research by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the prices of more than 400 generic drugs were increased by more than 1,000% between 2008 and 2015.

Clinton said she would change the law to allow the “emergency importation” of safe alternative treatments from abroad.

Aloquin contains two cheap active ingredients: a decades-old antibiotic, iodoquinol, and an extract from the aloe vera plant. Iodoquinol can be bought for as little as $30 a tube and aloe vera cream costs a few dollars.

The drug is labelled as “possibly effective”, as the US Food and Drug Administration has stated that there is only limited evidence that the drug is effective.


The post-referendum economy: data defies gloomy UK predictions

Fears that Britain will slide into a post-referendum recession ha

A Vote Leave supporter celebrates following the EU referendum result

ve been allayed after a Guardian analysis showed the latest news on the economy has confounded analysts’ gloomy expectations, with consumer spending strong, unemployment low and the housing market holding steady.

The finding comes as a leading thinktank toned down its earlier dire warnings of economic turmoil for the UK and its neighbours in the event of a leave vote. The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said prompt action by the Bank of England to cut interest rates had cushioned the blow from June’s Brexit vote but it still believes the UK will suffer a sharp slowdown next year amid heightened uncertainty.

Official figures on the state of the public finances, released on Wednesday, also showed little impact from the vote to leave the EU. Government borrowing was a touch higher than economists had expected in August, but was lower than a year ago in a boost to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, as he prepares to give his maiden autumn statement in November.

Following the historic 23 June vote to leave the EU, analysts were quick to predict the UK economy would grind to a halt or even shrink. They warned businesses and households would stop spending because of job cuts, political uncertainty and a squeeze on living standards as the weak pound stoked inflation.

But since the Bank stepped in with a package of measures to shore up the economy, much of the economic news has defied expectations and many analysts have toned down their post-referendum gloom.

Now the picture of early resilience is bolstered in the first snapshot of post-referendum Britain in a new Guardian project that will track the economy as the Brexit talks begin and progress, and as more data on the economy becomes available.

The Guardian has chosen eight economic indicators, as well as the value of the pound against the dollar and euro, to illustrate the state of the economy.

While there are warning signs of possible problems ahead, the dashboard shows a better than expected performance in four of the eight categories analysed. Two were as expected and inflation came in below forecasts, defying expectations for a post-referendum pick-up in price rises. Public borrowing was a little worse than forecast, at £10.5bn in August, compared with the £10bn predicted by economists.