The potential end of the unregulated drug prices
By Davie Wong, Sports Reporter
Martin Shkreli is a name that many have never heard of before September 21. Now the name is on the top of nearly every medical discussion in North America. Why are people talking about this relatively unknown person?
Well, Shkreli is actually the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company focused on helping patients who have limited or no effective treatment options. Last week, his company bought the US marketing rights to the 62-year-old drug Daraprim, a drug that helps fight parasitic diseases such as AIDS.
Buying the marketing rights to a drug is perfectly normal. Many pharmaceutical companies do it all the time. It’s what Shkreli did after he purchased the right that upset so many people.
Immediately after the rights were purchased, Shkreli bumped the price up. Well, bumped isn’t really the most appropriate word to be using considering the fact that the price jumped from $13.50 all the way to $750. That’s a 5,445 per cent increase in price.
Shkreli claims that the drug is an “orphan drug,” meaning that it was developed specifically to treat rare medical conditions. He also claims that the lack of competition in that area of medicine meant that there was nothing stopping them from raising the price of Daraprim. The money made will supposedly go towards researching an improved version of the drug.
The price hike did not go unnoticed, however, as users of the drug quickly turned to social media to protest the raise. The protest quickly caught the eye of the masses, and, within a day, Shkreli and his company were under heavy fire. Even political candidates took to social media to protest the spike in the drug price, with the American Democrats’ Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders pledging to rework the pharmaceutical system so this never happens again.
However, the spike revealed something other than the injustice of the pharmaceutical system. It revealed that Shkreli’s company is not the first to do this. In fact, Shkreli’s company was merely following the long trend of the pharmaceutical industry. At least three different pharmaceutical companies have hiked the prices for their drugs with the most being a 2,000 per cent increase.
Most of these spikes went unnoticed. It wasn’t until now and the Shkreli debacle that the floodgates opened. Reports of companies who have done this in the past are now coming in almost daily.
The prices are not steadily increased, like a normal company would do to deal with inflation. Instead, they are spiked out of seemingly nowhere. Now the government is finally taking notice.
Shortly after the Daraprim news hit its social media high, two other articles were released detailing the price spiking of two other drugs. Democrats in the House of Representatives have asked for a subpoena on the company that owns the drugs. If the subpoena passes, the companies must hand over information about how they have determined the prices on their drugs.
This could spell disaster for pharmaceutical and biotech companies who regularly raise the prices on their goods without having to explain why. While this is bad news for companies in that area of business, this is good news for the buyers of their products. The era of unregulated pharmaceutical drug price spikes is coming to an end, and the person to thank for that is the person that took it one step too far: Martin Shkreli, unsung hero of the end to pharmaceutical tyranny.