Big Pharma Company Buys Patent Rights to Life-Saving Drug and Raises Price by 5,000 Percent

drug-prices1By Andrew Emett

(Editor’s Note: Even if you are against all synthetic drugs and feel they should never be taken under any circumstances, this type of criminality and lack of basic decency typifies the sordid state of Big Pharma healthcare.)

After purchasing the rights to a drug that prevents infections in people with weakened immune systems, including AIDS patients and cancer survivors undergoing chemotherapy, a pharmaceutical company has raised the price of the drug by 5,000%. Instead of paying $13.50 per pill, patients with life-threatening illnesses are now forced to pay $750 per pill.

Led by a former hedge fund manager, Turing Pharmaceuticals was founded by Martin Shkreli after his first startup biotech company, Retrophin, ousted him last year amid accusations of stock impropriety. Shortly after founding Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli secured the exclusive rights to sell Daraprim (pyrimethamine), which helps prevent malaria and treats toxoplasmosis.

According to the CDC, toxoplasmosis is the second most common foodborne disease and can easily infect people whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS, chemotherapy, or even pregnancy. Approximately 60 million people in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite. Exposure to the parasite can occur by eating undercooked meat, cooking with contaminated knives and boards, drinking unclean water, or contact with infected cat feces.

A report from the Prime Institute at the University of Minnesota found that the average cost of brand-name medications rose 13% in 2013. According to the report, new cancer drugs routinely cost over $100,000 a year, while a new hepatitis drug called Sovaldi costs $84,000 for only three months of treatment.

Instead of directly addressing the inordinate price hike, Turing Pharmaceuticals sent out a press release on Friday acknowledging “that some healthcare facilities have encountered challenges securing DARAPRIM® (pyrimethamine) for patients diagnosed with toxoplasmosis.”

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“Our number one priority is to ensure that all patients diagnosed with toxoplasmosis have an efficient and affordable means to access Daraprim,” stated Turing’s Chief Commercial Officer, Nancy Retzlaff. “As soon as we learned that some hospitals and clinics were having trouble accessing the product, we developed an immediate corrective plan to ensure quick, efficient access for patients in need.”

The trouble patients have in accessing the product is due to the recent price gouge. Even patients whose insurance plans require them to cover 20% of the cost still have to pay at least $150 per pill. Nowhere in the press release does Turing Pharmaceuticals justify raising the cost of the drug by 5,000%.

Instead of displaying an ounce of compassion for patients with life-threatening diseases, pregnant mothers, and organ donor recipients, Martin Shkreli appears to be running Turing Pharmaceuticals like a reckless hedge fund manager. Besides acquiring the rights to Daraprim, Turing has also picked up a hypertension drug that Shkreli believes could treat autism. Turing is also reportedly working on a nasal spray containing oxytocin and ketamine for treating depression.

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Andrew Emett writes for

  • Mark

    All crimes against humanity, including economic crimes against humanity, must be prosecuted.

    • gifteconomy

      Normaly, we love profits and we even consider that “making profit” is a succes.
      The only remedy against profit is A GIFT ECONOMY – everything can and must FREE OF CHARGE – FREE WATER, FREE FOOD, FREE SHELTER, FREE EDUCATION, FREE HEALTH… are real human rights.
      We need to consent that everything must be FREE – that’s all.

      • Mark

        Just prices, just wages, and the elimination of usury and swindling are not too much to ask.

      • William Burke

        What is the motive to develop new things? I love the idea, but it seems fatally flawed.

        • gifteconomy

          Google/Youtube: “gift economy”, “gerrilla gardening”, “vertical gardening”, “raw vegan” , “vegetarian elite” …

        • dale ruff

          Soldiers sacrifice their lives not for profit but out of duty; athletes excel for glory. Scholars and artists do their best not for profits but for the intrinsic rewards that come with knowledge and creativity. The most celebrated individuals in history were not motivated by profits, from Jesus to Dr. King to Mother Teresa.

          The motive to develop new things is rooted in the same innate impulse which causes children to endless innovate in their play: creativity is its own reward. Forcing all human activity into the narrow mold of profit-making ignores the urges which motivate saints and poets, parents and teachers every day.

  • Rick Carufel

    Criminal Usury, the same old song.

  • disqusraton

    Assuming the inventor didn’t sell the patent outright and as per the article only licensed exclusive rights to this manufacturer…

    The inventor could have helped prevent this outrageous increase by:

    1) offering ONLY a non-exclusive license (so he or she could license others to make and sell the drug, thus providing for competition)

    2) putting end-user price increase restrictions on the manufacturer’s product, which if exceeded would either void the license entirely, or turn the exclusive license into a non-exclusive one.

    • B-Free (NL)

      Or better yet, the legislator should not offer exclusive rights.

  • dale ruff

    How about a simple law mandating that the price of any drug cannot be more than 10% of the cost of production and delivery? It is unlikely a drug would not be produced if guaranteed a 10% profit, a number that could be adjusted if necessary.

    Drug companies exploit the research done by the NIH at public expense, the court system which guarantees property rights, and other aspects of the commons to make a profit. Where there is genuine competition, the market can set the price but where a monopoly exists (including cartels), the government has an obligation to prevent price gouging by setting reasonable but attractive limits on profits.

    • Doug

      Sounds good except setting limits on profits of a private company is communistic in nature.

  • vladilyich

    There needs to be a federal law restricting ALL corporations to a maximum 25% profit above overhead.

    • Doug

      That’s communism.

      • vladilyich

        Your point is, (if you have a defensible one)?

        • Doug

          A lot of good men died fighting against that evil scourge. We intend to keep it out of America.

          • B-Free (NL)

            That looked more like totalitarian dictatorship under the guise communism.

  • Sumner Raphael Berg

    I would have cranked the price up by 10,000%. Why not make those losers who are desperate pay for their condition. Why cater to the sick and unhealthy. They are a drag on society.

  • abinico

    Morris Fishbein would be proud.

  • BellsNwhistles

    Capitalism is a death culture. Profits from the distress or death of others feeds capitalist to demand more of the same.

  • gozounlimited

    Who cares? For every petroleum based synthetic drug on the market there are ten natural substances that actually assist in repairing the body leading to the cure.

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