The pharmaceutical industry has long been heavily criticized for the perception that they profit off the misery, illnesses, and unfortunate circumstances of others, particularly when drugs that some people simply can’t live without are outrageously priced.
Enter former hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical executive, Martin Shkreli, who recently became CEO of a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals, and now over the weekend has become the poster child for all that is allegedly evil about pharmaceutical companies after jacking up the price of a drug needed by AIDS patients, and many others, over 5,000 percent.
The New York Times reports that Martin Shkreli recently headed up purchasing the rights to the drug Daraprim for $55 million dollars, and instantly raised the price of a Daraprim tablet from $13.50 to $750.
Daraprim is a 62-year-old drug that is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a potentially deadly infection that often opportunistically attacks people with compromised or delicate immune systems, including AIDS patients, some cancer patients, babies, and the elderly.
Before Martin Shkreli’s commandeering of Daraprim, the price of the once $1-dollar-a-pill medication had gone up during its decades old history. But Shkreli’s price hike of Daraprim takes it to a whole new level with his $736.50 price raise, which doctors, patients, and even many in the pharmaceutical industry are calling blatant price gouging of the worst kind.
Shkreli’s Daraprim price raise also motivated many to speak their minds via social media, the CEO not garnering much praise.
Shkreli, meanwhile, is defending his jacking up the price of Daraprim, reports Raw Story, saying his intent is not to negatively affect the care of those with toxoplasmosis, like AIDS patients, babies, and those suffering from cancer.
Actually, according to Shkreli in multiple interviews, his Daraprim price-hike was made so that Turing Pharmaceuticals can invest in research to create new and better treatments for toxoplasmosis that will also have fewer side effects.
“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” said Shkreli, also noting that the new $750 per Daraprim dose is actually still relatively underpriced. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”
Despite CEO Shkreli’s assertions, many Doctors such as Dr. Judith Aberg, Division of Infectious Diseases Chief at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are very concerned that the new astronomical price of Daraprim will have a very negative impact on some patients.
“What is it that they are doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase?” asked Dr. Aberg, also voicing concerns that the jacked-up price may lead to hospitals using “alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy.”
Shrkeli’s claim that he plans to pump his Daraprim profits into developing better treatments also has doctors raising their eyebrows and shrugging.
“I certainly don’t think (toxoplasmosis) is one of those diseases where we have been clamoring for better therapies,” said Emory University professor of infectious diseases, Dr. Wendy Armstrong.
As public outrage continues to unfold around the new Daraprim price, new Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Skreli, for the time being at least, seems unphased, his defense of the huge price-hike well rationalized, and he himself immune to the the criticism.
[Images via Twitter]