Turing Will Roll Back Massive Drug Price Hike After Backlash (UPDATE)

CEO Martin Shkreli didn't say how much he'd cut the cost of Daraprim.

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli said Tuesday he would roll back the massive price increase for lifesaving drug Daraprim after a fierce public backlash that included presidential candidates.

UPDATE: He reneged.


Shkreli, who is part of a criminal investigation involving another company he founded, told NBC News he'll lower the price of the toxoplasmosis-treating drug, which he jacked up overnight from $13.50 per pill to $750 after buying exclusive marketing rights in August. He didn't say how much he'd cut the cost, though he admitted that he made the decision after the drubbing he got from the public.

"Yes it is absolutely a reaction -- there were mistakes made with respect to helping people understand why we took this action, I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people," Shkreli, a 32-year-old hedge fund manager, told the network.

He said the decision on the new price will be made over the next few weeks.

Shkreli's price hike quickly gained national infamy after a New York Times report. Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, condemned the increase. Clinton called it "price gouging." 

Clinton unveiled a plan Tuesday to cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs like Daraprim

Earlier in the day, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry's main lobbying group, sought to distance itself from Turing's move, posting on Twitter that the drugmaker "does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies."

The group noted that Turing is not one of its members, which include global drug giants Merck, Pfizer and Novartis.

Shkreli had defended the hike as "altruistic," claiming that the company could use the profit to research a new drug for the condition, according to The Washington Post. He said the earlier price of $13.50 just wasn't profitable.

"It's very easy to see a large drug price increase and say, 'Gosh those people must be gouging,' but when you find out the company is not making any money, what does that mean?" Shkreli told NBC News Tuesday. "It's very hard stuff to understand."

The drug is mostly used in the treatment of toxoplasmosis, an infectious parasite considered a "leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States," according to the Centers for Disease Control. The condition is especially bad for pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems due to illnesses such as HIV-AIDS or cancer.

A federal prosecutor this year subpoenaed biotechnology company Retrophin Inc., looking for information on its dealings with Shkreli, who founded the company in 2011 and ran it until he was fired last year. The criminal probe also sought information related to Shkreli's hedge fund, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Reuters contributed to this report.