Hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli is hands down the most hated man in America after he and his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the patent for a lifesaving drug called Daraprim and immediately raised the price by 5,500 percent. What we didn’t know at the time is that this isn’t the first time he’s done this.
Daraprim is hardly a new drug. It’s been around for 62 years and is best known for treating AIDS patients, but it more generally treats toxoplasmosis, a parasite. Anyone can get toxoplasmosis, but people with suppressed immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Even before Shkreli’s company bought the patent, the drug was relatively expensive, at $13.50 per tablet. Now, it’s $750.00 per tablet.
Shkreli used to be the CEO of a company called Retrophin. In 1988, they purchased a kidney medication called Thiola, which treats cystine kidney stones caused by cystinuria, which is a lifelong disease with no cure. It’s used to treat children as young as 9-years-old. As soon as Retrophin bought the drug, the company began gouging its patients by raising the price from $1.50 per pill to $30.00 per pill. With Retrophin, people have to take it for their entire life and at $30.00 per pill that can cost upwards of $100,000 a year and more.
There was no alternative drug for cystinuria sufferers, Brozak reported, and the 20-fold hike raised the price to about between $54,750 to $109,500 per year. At the time, Brozak argued that Retrophin was “turning patients into commodities like barrels of oil,” while University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Associate Professor of Urology Benjamin Davies called it a case of “predatory capitalism on the backs of the sick and silent.” Writing for Science Transnational Medicine, pharmaceutical columnist Derek Lowe said the Thiola increase was the “most unconscionable drug price hike I have yet seen.”
Unfortunately, pharmaceutical lobbyists spent a fortune lobbying the government to essentially leave them alone during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act and it worked. Health care costs continue to rise, largely on the backs of pharmaceutical companies.
Featured image via CBS News video screen capture.