Ridiculous AIDS drug price increase just one of many examples of pharmaceutical greed
Have you heard of Martin Shkreli? By now, many of us have. He’s the Turing Pharmaceuticals Founder and CEO who made headlines with a 5,000% overnight price increase on the AIDS drug Daraprim, raising the cost from $13.50 a pill to $750.00 for each life-altering tablet.
This medication, approved in 1953 by the FDA, is used predominantly in the treatment of a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause horrible birth defects if contracted during pregnancy. It also can cause horrible problems for those with compromised immune systems, such as some cancer patients and AIDS patients. The drug also treats malaria. Several years ago the cost of Daraprim was only $1.00 per tablet. But after Turing bought the drug, it increased the price dramatically. Why? Simple: because it could.
What about generics?
Since the patents have expired on Daraprim, the creation of generic versions is possible. Unfortunately, the drug is no longer available in drugstores, and distribution is tightly controlled. This hinders the ability of other companies to acquire the necessary samples for testing to create those generic versions. And, as long as no generic equivalent is available, the present owner of the drug can keep its price in the stratosphere, with no competition to drive down the price.
Other examples of excessive greed in the world of pharmaceuticals
Sadly, the Daraprim fiasco is not an isolated event. The following drugs have also undergone radical, unnecessary price hikes in recent years in the disgusting practice of turning old, neglected drugs into overpriced specialty medications.
- Cycloserine – Rodelis Therapeutics boosted the cost of this treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis from $500 for 30 pills to a whopping $10,800. GM Scott Spencer defended the price hike, claiming Rodelis needed the money to ensure drug availability and to work on improvements in the drug.
- Nitropress and Isuprel – Valeant Pharmaceuticals acquired these heart disease drugs from Marathon in August of this year, and immediately raised the price to consumers by 212% and 525%, respectively. This, after Marathon had already quintupled the drugs’ prices in 2013, shortly after acquiring them from another pharmaceutical company.
- Doxycycline – This antibiotic catapulted to $1,849 per bottle from only $20 over a mere six-month time frame.
Greed and lies
And finally, back to Shkreli. He claimed that despite the astronomical price increase, Daraprim was still “underpriced, relative to its peers.” However, according to PunditFact, that is false. But, really. Who’s surprised?
“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Mr. Shkreli said. He also pointed to the fact that many patients use the drug for less than a year, implying that the increased cost would not be a big deal since patients don’t need it long term.
Well, I would argue, if that is in fact the case, why raise the price by 5,000%?
I guess time will tell. Martin Shkreli has been called to answer questions about this price-gouging scheme in front of the Senate on Dec. 9th.
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