Hillary Clinton, Democratic frontrunner in the US presidential race, knocked $15 billion (€13.5 billion) from the value of US biotech stocks on Monday by pledging to take on "outrageous" price-gouging in the pharmaceuticals industry.
“Price-gouging like this in the speciality drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on,” Ms Clinton wrote in a tweet, referring to a company that hiked the price of a medicine for a form of parasitic infection from $13.50 to $750 overnight.
The tweet sent the Nasdaq biotech index down by almost 5 per cent in early New York trading. Shares in Valeant, a Canadian pharmaceutical group that has a reputation for implementing steep price hikes, fell by 6.31 per cent.
In August, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who is running against Mrs Clinton for the Democratic nomination, wrote to Valeant, asking why it had sharply raised the price of two heart drugs after acquiring them last year.
On the day it secured the rights to the drug, Valeant hiked the price of a vial of Isuprel more than six-fold to $1,346.62 while tripling the price of Nitropress to $805.61.
Shares in Biogen, which makes a multiple sclerosis drug that costs roughly $55,000 a year, fell by almost 5 per cent, while Alexion, which makes a drug for rare blood disorders that costs roughly $500,000 per patient, fell by 3.89 per cent.
Gilead, often seen as the poster child for high drug prices because of its $1,000-a-day hepatitis C pills, fell by 2.7 per cent.
Mrs Clinton's tweet referred to the case of Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug for a life-threatening parasitic infection. It was bought in August by privately held Turing Pharmaceuticals, which raised the price by more than 5,000 per cent.
Turing said it was bringing the drug’s price in line with other medicines for rare diseases.
The tweet followed comments made by Mrs Clinton at the weekend on
Face the Nation
, a Sunday talk show, in which she applauded President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform, the Affordable Healthcare Act, for “lots of positives” but she said there were still “issues that need to be addressed”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015