Pills-Money-722x505New York. — An entrepreneur who acquired the rights to produce a life-saving drug then increased its price more than 50-fold overnight is defending his decision with assertions that the profits will help create better medicines in future.

Medical organisations protested loudly on Sunday after a company owned by controversial former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli raised the price of the drug Daraprim, which treats a dangerous parasitic infection, from $13,50 per pill to $750.

Shkreli’s start-up company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim in August.

The drug was first developed in the 1940s and is used to treat toxoplasmosis, an infection that is not common, but is particularly dangerous and can be fatal when it affects babies born to mothers who have become infected or adults whose immune systems are critically compromised because they are suffering from Aids or some cancers.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint, open letter to Turing Pharmaceuticals earlier in September, complaining that the sudden, steep price increase for Daraprim was “unjustifiable for the medically-vulnerable patient population” and also that it was “unsustainable for the health care system”, according to the New York Times.

On Monday, Shkreli said: “We need to turn a profit on the drug.” He defended the decision by telling Bloomberg News that newer versions of the drug needed to be developed and his was the first company “to really focus on this product” for decades and that such research was extremely expensive.

He also promised that: “If you cannot afford the drug we will give it away for free.”

Shkreli also said the drug was currently under-priced. — The Guardian.