A CEO of a US drugs company has been forced to back down after raising the price of one of its drugs by 5500 per cent.
After intense pressure, including criticism from presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Martin Shkreli confirmed this week he will slash the price of Daraprim, a drug his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought in August and then hiked from $13.50 to $750 a pill (£9 to £490).
But Shkreli has claimed slashing the price of the drug may lead him to cut research for "lethal diseases" and force him to fire staff.
"We might have to curtail research for several lethal diseases that we are seeking treatments for. We might have to fire people," he told The Guardian.
But medical experts have cast serious doubts on the assertions of the former hedge fund manager-turned-pharmaceutical entrepreneur.
Shkreli declined to say how much he would cut the cost of Daraprim, the standard treatment for the dangerous blood infection toxoplasmosis. Daraprim is a daily drug many patients have to take for a year or more.
A storm erupted on Monday after details of the price hike became public. Clinton called Turing's actions "price gouging" before unveiling a far-reaching proposal to cap the out-of-pocket costs of all medicines to $250 a month if she wins the White House in 2016.
Dr Alan Taege, a toxoplasmosis specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a major academic and medical treatment centre, told The Guardian that he found Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals' approach "repulsive".
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that is not common in the developed world but is serious when it occurs, hitting people with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV patients who have developed Aids, cancer sufferers on heavy chemotherapy and organ transplant recipients. It can also affect pregnant women, endangering the fetus.