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Drug Company Spikes Acne Cream Price To $10K Per Tube

Move over, Mylan, there's a new pharmaceutical price-gouger in town.

Novum Pharma, a Chicago-based pharmaceutical company, in mid-September raised the price of an acne and skin inflammation cream to $10,000 a tube, according to The Financial Times.

The cream is sold under the brand name Aloquin and contains ingredients derived from aloe vera plants as well as iodoquinol, a topical antibiotic that's commonly found in creams designed to relieve itching and skin infections.

The two main ingredients cost "virtually nothing," Boing Boing's Corey Doctorow noted, and generic versions of iodoquinol retail for about $30.

Nonetheless, Novum jacked up the price of a tube of Aloquin by 1,100 percent immediately after acquiring the rights to the drug in May 2015. It sold for $241 before the rights were bought. A second price hike followed in January, followed by the third price hike -- bringing the total cost to  $9,561 -- in September.

In all, that's a 3,900 percent price hike since Novum Pharma acquired the drug, which comes in a 60 gram tube and hasn't exactly earned a ringing endorsement from the FDA, which labels it "possibly effective." 

"From a clinical standpoint, a drug listed as 'possibly effective' by the FDA, shouldn't be a likely treatment choice by doctors -- especially not with a $10,000 price tag," said Michael Rea, chief executive of Rx Savings Solutions.

Novum's website describes Aloquin's "powerful topical performance" and calls it a "soothing and cooling gel" that's "proven effective against a wide spectrum of bacteria."

The news about Novum's price hikes, first reported by The Financial Times, comes after national outrage over the more than 600 percent price hike for the EpiPen, a life-saving anti-allergen injector that is considered a mandatory medication for people with severe allergies.

Although the EpiPen was developed and invented by the U.S. military, Mylan acquired the rights to the EpiPen in 2007 and earlier this year raised the price of a two-pack of the pens to $600. The company's CEO, Heather Bresch (pictured), is the daughter of a U.S. senator and has drawn widespread criticism for leading the company's pricing strategy while earning tens of millions of dollars.

Bresch was grilled by lawmakers on Sept. 21 during a congressional hearing, where she would not answer questions about the company's financials and would not admit to increasing the price of EpiPens to increase profits, according to Business Insider.

Lawmakers also learned that Bresch's mother, Gayle Manchin -- wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin -- headed the National Association of State Boards of Education, the lobby group that helped Mylan secure a monopoly on providing anti-allergen auto-injectors to schools in the U.S.

Sources: Financial Times via CNBC, Business Insider, BoingBoing / Photo credit: Alchetron

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