Martin Shkreli is stirring a storm in the United States, over drug-pricing.
Turing, the small pharmaceuticals company of which he is CEO, has recently bought the rights for the medicine Daraprim, used to treat toxoplasmosis — a dangerous parasitic infection — and increased the price by a factor of 55, or more than 5,000%.
A pill that before cost $13.50 is now priced at $750 (just over 670 euros).
Toxoplasmosis affects people with immune system deficiency, such as HIV and AIDS patients. Daraprim has been on the market since 1953.
Criticism in the websphere has not been kind to Shkreli — age 32 and a former hedge fund manager.
He has responded in like terms, borrowing from lyrics by rapper Eminem, who is not known for politely pulling his punches.
“THEY SEE ME ROLLING…” pic.twitter.com/D1mDBEeZMq— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) 16 Septembre 2015
Shkreli has tried to justify the bitter pill saying that the previous profit from the toxoplasmosis drug ($5 million per year) provided insufficient motivation to invest in developing anything better, which is just what he says Turing Pharmaceuticals intends to do.
It paid $55 million for the Daraprim rights last month — the production cost is around $1 per pill.
Apart from research, marketing and distribution is where Shkreli says greater revenue will go — insisting it will not be to pay shareholders handsome dividends.
Patients do not directly pay for their treatment where private insurance companies or government programmes cover them.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said: “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous.”
Clinton has outlined a proposal for a $250 monthly cap (yes, $250 monthly) on prescription drugs, to stop what she calls “excessive profiteering” by pharmaceutical companies.
This monthly cap would limit what insurance companies could ask patients to contribute towards for drugs that treat chronic medical conditions.
According to Clinton’s campaign, the largest pharmaceutical companies are collectively earning $80 billion to $90 billion per year — at higher margins than other industries — while average Americans struggle to pay for medicine.