Price of Teva’s Generic Drug for Wilson’s Disease Sparks Outrage

Drug’s $18,275 price tag saves patients less than $3,000 versus the branded product

Wilson’s disease patients had been champing at the bit for Teva Pharmaceuticals’ generic of Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ Syprine (trientine hydrochloride), which the company billed as a “lower-cost generic.” But after the drug launched this month, patients discovered Teva’s generic isn’t much cheaper than Valeant’s branded drug, according to a BioSpace report.

When Teva announced the launch of its generic version, Hafrun Fridriksdottir, head of Global Research and Development at Teva, said its trientine hydrochloride capsules were included on an FDA list of off-patent, off-exclusivity branded drugs without approved generics. Trientine hydrochloride is used in the treatment of patients with Wilson’s disease who are intolerant of penicillamine.

Syprine has been around since the 1960s, but Valeant dramatically increased the price after it acquired the rights in 2015. The price jumped from $652 in 2010 to $21,267 for 100 pills of the branded treatment. When Teva announced its generic alternative, the company said it would offer “a lower-cost generic alternative to patients.” In a statement earlier this month, Brendan O’Grady, head of Teva’s North America Commercial division, said the launch of the generic version of Syprine “illustrates the company’s commitment to serving patient populations in need.” And then Teva revealed the price for its generic drug—$18,275 for 100 pills, a cheaper alternative by less than $3,000.

Following multiple reports about the high price of the Syprine generic in publications such as The New York Times and Jerusalem Post, Teva will be bracing for a backlash of outrage that hit companies like Valeant, which jacked up the price of multiple drugs it acquired.

Syprine and the Teva generic work by removing high copper levels from the body. Wilson’s disease prevents the body from removing excess copper on its own. If those copper levels are allowed to build up within the body, it can cause organ damage. A rare disease, Wilson’s disease affects about one in 30,000 people. It’s estimated there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Wilson’s disease patients in the United States.

The negative press over the pricing of the drug comes at a time when Teva is battling eroding generic sales in the United States, as well as a massive debt of more than $30 billion.

Source: BioSpace; February 26, 2018.