People Suck: Ex-Hedge Funder Buys AIDS Drug, Increases Price 5,000%
In this week’s edition of “people suck” I’d like to introduce you to Martin Shkreli.
Shkreli is a 32-year-old former hedge fund manager and the founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG. He’s also the pharmaceutical industry’s public enemy number one. Why? Because Shkreli quickly skyrocketed to internet fame after he purchased the rights to a 62-year-old lifesaving drug used for fighting parasitic infections, and then raised its price overnight by more than 5,500 percent.
— Slate (@Slate) September 23, 2015
According to the New York Times, Turing acquired the drug Daraprim in August and quickly raised its price from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. Daraprim is mainly used to treat toxoplasmosis, which is a parasitic infection that can cause life-threatening problems for people with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients. So by drastically inflated the drug’s price, Shkreli and his company greedily price gouged these patients by raising their cost of treatment to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the immortal words of Kanye West: “how could you be so heartless?”
After news got out about the price hike, Shkreli went on CNBC to defend his business move, claiming that the increase was needed to fund development for a better version of the AIDS drug. However, reporter Meg Tirrell fired back saying that experts have said that reformulating the drug is completely unnecessary.
At this price, Daraprim is still on the low end of what drugs costs. And we’re certainly not the first company to raise drug prices.
Turing is a very small company, it’s a new company and we’re not a profitable company. So for us to try to exist and maintain a profit, I think is pretty reasonable.
Tirrell concluded the interview by asking Shkreli if he would consider lowing the price in response to the negative media attention and many “doctors and patients saying that they can’t access this drug.”
Shkreli responded with a simple, “no.” But his resolve didn’t last long.
Politicians quickly began denouncing his actions, while Democratic presidential candidates responded by tailoring their health care platforms around the issue of the rising costs of prescription drugs.
Shortly after she sent out the tweet, stock plummeted for Turing. And shortly after that, Clinton rolled out a new drug plan that would prevent insurers from offering health plans that charge patients more than $250 a month in co-payments for drugs.
All of this seemed to give Shkreli a change of heart, because on Tuesday he announced that he would be lowing the cost of the medication. There’s no word yet on how much the drug will now cost or when we can expect the price change to take effect, but one thing is certain–he’s still a douche.