Approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1953, Daraprim is a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, a dangerous parasitic infection that can be life threatening to unborn babies whose mothers become infected and also to those with immune deficiencies like those suffering from AIDS.
The drug was manufactured and distributed by GlaxoSmithKline and sold for around $1 per pill.
In 2010 Glaxo sold the marketing rights to Core Pharma which was then purchased by Impax Laboratories which then sold Daraprim to Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The price of a single pill rose from $1 to $13.50 to . . . wait for it . . . $750.
Turing and the price of Daraprim is not an isolated incident. Pharmaceutical investment companies nationwide purchase the rights to older, specialized drugs all the time. Once they have the rights to a particular drug, they stop the practice of general distribution and distribute the drugs directly to healthcare providers.
What this means is that you can’t walk into any pharmacy in the U.S. and get yourself some Daraprim like you can in every other industrialized nation. It has to be purchased directly by healthcare providers. This means it’s tougher to manufacture and distribute a generic brand and that Turing can charge whatever it damn pleases.
It’s pleased to charge $750 for a pill that costs less than a dollar to manufacture.
The good news is all the other countries around the world can still buy it for around $13.50. They have systems in place that set the price of drugs with bulk purchases and mass distribution. Here, Medicaid works in the same fashion, however, Medicare, private healthcare providers, and in-hospital prescriptions are forced to pay a one hundred thousand treatment bill for something that used to cost the same as a bottle of gummy-vitamins.
What this means is if you walk into the emergency room with toxoplasmosis . . . it’s time to sell the boat.
Obviously this is a side effect of a broken healthcare system coupled with capitalism at it’s most . . . wait for it . . . parasitic. There are simply too many leach-like hands in this particular cookie jar.
However, if healthcare were to be nationalized, like it is everywhere else, the sound argument suggests that the most expensive part (research and development) would grind to a halt. We can see that effect with anti-biotic drugs which are very expensive to design and only taken for a short period of time. Antibiotics are a bad investment and therefore there hasn’t been new ones on the market for over forty years.
Viagra on the other hand, super lucrative, as long as the entire population of baby-boomers doesn’t contract a strain of super streptococcus that is impervious to forty year old antibiotics.
That would be bad.
Though this story is big right now, owner of Turing Pharmaceuticals Martin Shkreli remains unapologetic. Shkreli, for the record, was fired from his previous job as a hedge fund manager because he was caught trying to urge the FDA to deny approval for drugs developed by companies whose stock he was shorting.
What that means is he was using investor money to bet that the companies would do badly. That’s what a hedge fund manager does. Then he would try a get them to do badly by urging the FDA to deny their product.
Even Ayn Rand would find that mode of capitalism rather icky.
This isn’t Social Darwinism at work . . . it’s the Plague.
It isn’t known exactly how many prescriptions of Daraprim are made annually, but it’s previous owner, Impax Laboratories, made around $9.9 million with a price point of $13.50 per pill. Turing purchased Daraprim for $55 million and then jacked up the price to $750.
Turing isn’t the first company to do this, won’t be the last, and this story will get cold by week’s end, even though it’s use as a drug for AIDS patients is highly emotional and trending sky high right now.
For the record, Daraprim is not an AIDS drug. It’s a $750 pill used to kill parasites.
Would that we had something as effective against Big Pharma.
By C. Todd Lopez (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons