Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S., said on Tuesday it will partner with Imprimis Pharmaceuticals to provide a $1 alternative to Daraprim, the 62-year-old drug for a rare parasitic infection. In September, the company that owned the drug stoked outrage when it hiked the drug's price by more than 5,000 percent overnight.
Imprimis, a California compounding pharmaceutical company, said in October it would make the alternative—a compounded formulation of the active ingredient in Daraprim, pyrimethamine, and another drug, leucovorin—available for $99 for a 100-count bottle, or less than $1 per pill.
That compares with a price of $750 per pill for the drug provided by Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that acquired Daraprim earlier this year and dramatically raised its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750.
"After the price of Daraprim went up so high, a lot of infectious disease doctors reached out to me about what could be done," Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, told CNBC in a telephone interview.
Miller added: "A couple weeks later, I read about what Imprimis was offering and thought: 'Could we make this really simple for doctors and patients to access?'"
Under the partnership announced Tuesday, Express Scripts added Imprimis to its pharmacy network and says it will work with organizations including the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) to communicate the availability of the Daraprim alternative to physicians. The announcement falls on World AIDS Day.
"We have the ability to buy the same exact chemicals and make the exact same formulations that are clinically relevant," Mark Baum, CEO of Imprimis, told CNBC.
At $1 per pill, Imprimis' Baum said the company will turn a profit. Imprimis has already filled dozens of prescriptions, he said, all being paid out of pocket so far. Express Scripts said it plans to start processing prescriptions as early as this week.