Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund guy responsible for one of the most hated price hikes in the history of pharmaceuticals, deserves an apology.
Allow me to explain.
Ever since news broke that his Turing Pharmaceuticals company would be purchasing the rights to Daraprim and bumping the price from $13.50 per tablet to $750, the internet has all but clamored for a death sentence.
The 62-year-old drug used to help AIDS patients became front page news as stories flew across social media and a backlash that continues today ensued.
Gawker described the move as something that “Only a bad guy from Captain Planet could come up with,” while Mashable commenters — some of them anyway — felt it would only be justice if “this b*stard rots in h*ll.”
Democratic frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton even took aim, using the case of Martin Shkreli as a reason for heavier regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.
But then rival Imprimis came along and announced Thursday that it would be undercutting Turing with a generic version of the drug for just $1 per pill.
And the internet rejoiced, heaping more bile on Shkreli’s head while they did a victory lap.
Through it all, Martin Shkreli has remained largely apathetic toward the hatred for him, engaging quite heatedly with people on Twitter and reddit.
He may not have done any of this for altruistic reasons, but because of his decision, he did three very important things for the good of the country and, yes, AIDS patients.
Firstly, he brought attention back to the Daraprim drug, which is old and outdated and increasingly ineffectual for AIDS patients. One of his plans with the 5,700 percent price hike was to develop a more effective drug. Furthermore, he planned to give Daraprim away to people, who could not afford to pay.
For those with insurance, the insurance company would pay. While it’s likely he did this to take advantage of the fact that more people are insured today than ever before, the tradeoff is that chances were very slim anyone needing the drug would have ever had to pay the full freight of it.
Secondly, by putting Daraprim back in the spotlight, Martin Shkreli has triggered a response from the free market, reminding everyone just how effective it can be when left to its own devices. In other words, it’s a pretty safe bet that Imprimis’ $1 per pill move will benefit potentially millions of AIDS patients in a way that socialized medicine never has and never will.
By resorting to measures that I will admit were drastic — and probably a little overreaching — he has people talking about AIDS again. Making himself a dartboard for the public’s aggression has lit a fire under the pharmaceutical industry and sent a message to play fair.
That kind of discretion will be needed as the cost of health insurance continues to skyrocket.
It could be that people like Martin Shkreli lead the way to a cheaper and more effective free market system within healthcare.
One thing is for certain, but I’ll let Imprimis CEO Mark Baum take over since he said it best.
“All you have to do is let the market work. We’re going to do really, really well and I’m excited about the profit. We’re just not going to charge what I think are totally absurd prices.”
I wonder if Baum has stopped to thank Shkreli. As a matter of fact, I wonder how many of you will. You can find him at this link on Twitter. No takers? Well, a simple apology should suffice. You owe it to him.
[Image of Martin Shkreli via Flickr Creative Commons]