Pharma Lobby May Boot Company That Introduced High-Priced Drug

  • Drug industry group examining membership criteria, CEO says
  • Review follows FDA approval of $89,000 drug by Marathon

The Washington lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry may kick out a drugmaker that introduced a high-priced version of an older medicine that had been available much more cheaply.

The group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is reviewing its membership criteria after Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC, a member of the organization, said it would introduce a drug for a rare, deadly muscle disease at the cost of $89,000 a year. A version of the drug had been available for about $1,000 a year overseas and many U.S. patients were allowed to import it.

Marathon’s “recent actions are not consistent with the mission of our organization,” Steve Ubl, chief executive officer of PhRMA, said in an e-mailed statement. “The leadership of the PhRMA board of directors has begun a comprehensive review of our membership criteria to ensure we are focused on representing research-based biopharmaceutical companies that take significant risks to bring new treatments and cures to patients.”

PhRMA includes many of the world’s biggest drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Its members have faced repeated criticism over the price of medicine in the U.S., after a handful of companies -- some members of the group, some not -- significantly raised the price of older, sometimes off-patent treatments.

A spokesman for Marathon didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment. The company said it was delaying its introduction of the drug, which is used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, after facing criticism of the price, including an inquiry from two members of Congress.

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