'Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has strongly advocated for a massive overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, is calling out a pharmaceutical company for hiking the annual list price of a medication used to treat a rare neuromuscular disease by hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting American lives in jeopardy.
In a letter (pdf) sent Monday to Patrick McEnany, president and CEO of Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, Sanders demanded answers to several inquiries regarding the company's decision to set the price of Firdapse—prescribed to patients with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS)—at $375,000 per year after securing exclusive rights to market the medication for the next seven years.
For the past two decades, Sanders' office noted in a statement, patients with the disease have been able to access a version of the drug—known as 3,4-DAP—for free from Jacobus Pharmaceutical through the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) compassionate use program. However, due Catalyst's licensing rights, that's no longer possible.
Chemist Derek Lowe criticized the regulatory loophole that allows for this type of behavior in a December blog post. "Although I have contempt for Catalyst Pharmaceuticals and all the other little fly-by-night outfits who are taking advantage of this same process," Lowe wrote, "let's put the blame where it belongs: on the FDA."'
Read more: A Drug to Treat a Rare Disease Used to Cost Patients $0. Now, It's $375,000—And Sanders Is Demanding Answers
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