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The price of Armour Thyroid, a brand name of natural desiccated thyroid, is going up. How much more remains to be seen. But as of October 2015, the price has been skyrocketing, with a 50% increase in just the period from July through September of 2015. Interestingly, at this same time, the issue of drug company price gouging also came front and center with the news of Turing Pharmaceuticals and their astronomical price increase for a drug that treats infections in AIDS patients.

Turing’s owner, former hedge-funder Martin Shkreli, bought the license for the drug Daraprim, and immediately raised its price by 5,455 percent – from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. Shkreli’s story, and his unapologetic attitude toward making huge profits on otherwise inexpensive drugs, received a great deal of negative press coverage, and exposed to the public the underside of drug company price gouging, an issue that many patients face with various drug prices.

Following the news, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posted on Twitter: “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous.”

So what does this all have to do with Armour Thyroid? Well, Armour Thyroid, a brand name of natural desiccated thyroid, was owned for a many years by Forest Laboratories. Forest sold the drug to Actavis, which was then acquired and folded into the pharmaceutical giant Allergan. Allergan is known for some big-name drugs, including Botox, Latisse, Restastis, Atonel, and others. And now, Allergan owns Armour Thyroid, the first and oldest thyroid hormone replacement drug on the market, and the top seller in the natural desiccated thyroid drug category.

CNBC analyst Jim Cramer spoke with Allergan CEO, Brent Saunders about the issue, and Clinton’s campaign promise to limit price gouging in the drug industry if elected. According to Saunders: “All of our intelligence says that it is going to be very hard for Hillary, or any other candidate, to really have a profound impact on drug pricing. That being said, we have to take this very seriously because it creates a lot of pressure on the system.”

Saunders then told Cramer that Allergan does not take part in “egregious price increases.” He also said: “What we have is a fantastic growth company. We have a company that is going to be growing top line double digit, expanding margins…”

Price Increases: All Natural Desiccated Thyroid, or Just Armour Thyroid?

In some cases, when prices of drugs rise, you see prices of all the drugs in that category rise, due to increased manufacturing costs, raw materials costs, and other issues that affect manufacturers across the board. But that has not been the case with Armour Thyroid.

As noted, Armour’s price under new owner Allergan has gone up 50% in just three months during the summer of 2015. Meanwhile, the other key brands of natural thyroid drugs, Nature-Throid and Thyroid WP — made by RLC Laboratories — have not had cost increases. And while there have been shortages in some pill sizes, the generic natural thyroid drug, known as NP Thyroid, made by Acella, has also kept its costs steady.

So what accounts for only one particular NDT having such a dramatic price increase?

Allergan’s “Explanation” for the Price Increases

I asked Allergan/Actavis for a comment regarding their price increases. (I had to make multiple inquiries before they agreed to respond.) I finally received the following statement, from Mark Marmur, the Director of Corporate Affairs:

Allergan does make business decisions that require a price increase of certain products because of the rising costs associate with producing medicines and ensuring they are available for patients. In the case of Armour Thyroid, Allergan has had to raise the price to support investments in the manufacturing process as well as development efforts for the product which are necessary to ensure supply to patients.

Allergan did increase the price of Armour Thyroid 50% on July 1st, 2015, bringing the weighted average cost (WAC) per pill to $0.63, while, Synthroid, has a WAC of $0.99 per pill. The price of Armour Thyroid is in line with the branded products in this category, and remains significantly lower than the average cost per pill of the other medicines in this space.

We encourage patients to speak with their doctors and insurance providers to find out more about their treatment options.

It’s not clear what “space” Marmur means. The comparison pricing site finds discounted prices — with in-store coupons or online purchase — for various drugs. An October 2015 search at GoodRx showed that for Armour Thyroid, 30 tablets of 60 mg dosage, the prices ranged from $20 to $26. (60 tablets of 60 mg ranged from $39 to $44). The other brand name natural thyroid drug, Nature-throid, was $7.50 to $14 for 30 tablets, and $16.50 – $20.50 for 60 tablets. The generic NP Thyroid from Acella was $8 to $13 for 30 tablets, and $13 – $24 for 60 tablets.

It’s hard to understand how “rising costs of producing medicines” would affect one drug company and not the others, requiring such a dramatic cost increase. And while I’m no math whiz, calculating the average cost per pill was pretty simple. I took the average prices, divided them by 30 or 60, and came up with the following:

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