Pharma profiteer jacked up prices for cancer treatments 5000% overnight, then karma came calling

Support us and go ad-free

Price-gouging pharma CEO Martin Shkreli has been having a bad month. First, he become a pariah for buying the rights to a much-needed HIV and cancer medication then immediately jacking up the price by over 5000% (to $750 per pill). And now, because he is about to lose his shirt as a competitor has produced a similar drug for just $1.

Life-saving Daraprim is a drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a disease that can affect pregnant women, as well as patients with weakened immune systems. It is commonly associated with HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment. It’s ‘off patent’, meaning that a pharma company can step in and purchase the rights to it, if they are willing to pay enough.

Shkreli seized the opportunity to buy the little known drug for $55million. Experts have suggested that the reason he jacked up the cost from $13.50 to $750 per pill, is to cover his investment costs. It’s worth noting that this is not a new phenomenon –  other pharma companies also behave in this way. For them price hikes offer a way to boost profits – presumably from those who are insured – without years of costly, risky research to find new medicines. It’s ‘zombie economics’ at its finest.

In a country where medical insurance is not available as part of many people’s employment, this act effectively holds wealthier, insured patients at gunpoint and robs them in full daylight, potentially pushing up their premiums. It leaves poorer patients without a vital means of managing their illness.

However, helps is at hand in the shape of San Diego-based pharmaceutical company Imprimis, which announced last Thursday that it would provide a low-cost, compounded alternative to Daraprim, containing the same active ingredients, but this new version would cost in the region of $1 per pill.

What’s more, Imprimis is not stopping there. The young company also plans to start making inexpensive versions of other generic drugs that have been affected by the same price gouging phenomenon said their Chief Executive Mark Baum:

This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug – especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim – has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable,” Baum said. ” In response to this recent case and others that we will soon identify, Imprimis is forming a new program called Imprimis Cares which is aligned to our corporate mission of making novel and customizable medicines available to physicians and patients today at accessible prices.”

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The fact that this is an issue at all points to a glaring hole in the US’s regulatory system where the pharmaceutical industry is concerned. The issue has inspired Hilary Clinton to promise to fight price gouging. Other Democratic candidates have put forth plans to combat this activity, but attempts to reform the industry have been resisted by the Republican-led Congress. The US remains the only country that does not regulate drug prices – this clearly needs to change.

Some have suggested the need for price capping or fixing to stop companies abusing the market and putting patients’ lives at risk. Until this happens however, Imprimis is taking a different strategy: they are working co-operatively with policymakers to support the availability of more competitively priced products. Baum goes on to say:

“We can reach a pricing equilibrium using competitive practices.  And we’ve gotta work with policymakers… to counterbalance the influences on the other side. To do what this Turing guy has done – he’s like a male version of Cruella de Vil.”

Shkreli’s immediate response to this was to attack Imprimis, branding their more viable approach to drug manufacture as a “publicity stunt” saying he “wishes them luck”. Bizarrely, he even thinks people will choose Turing’s ridiculously priced product over that of Imprimis. Interestingly, he has opened himself to the online community Reddit.com, where he has invited users to ‘AMA’ – ask me anything. If you want to let him know what you think of his behaviour, or to suggest alternatives, now’s your chance.

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed