Revolt Against Sky-High Drug Prices Prompts a Pioneer to Cash Out

By:  Joseph Walker

Entrepreneur Jeffrey Aronin said a few years ago he hoped to eventually sell Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC, which he controls and runs, for billions of dollars, according to a person who heard the comment. Some employees have said they now expect him to shut down the company.

His deflated ambition is a sign of the increasingly hostile reaction to drug companies that specialize in sharply raising the prices of old medications. Mr. Aronin did that over and over again for 15 years, most recently after Marathon won approval in February to sell a drug for muscular dystrophy in the U.S.

Marathon set the price at $89,000 a year. Some families were paying about $1,200 a year to buy the drug, a steroid called deflazacort, from an online pharmacy in the U.K. and have it shipped to the U.S.

Instead of conducting large clinical trials to test its safety and effectiveness, which might have cost tens of millions of dollars, Marathon spent about $370,000 to license data produced in earlier clinical trials.

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