A 32-year old CEO of a pharmaceutical group has been labelled ‘the most despised man in the world’ after increasing the price of a drug used to treat HIV-related diseases by over 5,500%.
Martin Shkreli purchased the rights to the drug, Daraprim, in August for $55 million. Following the purchase, his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, increased the drug’s price from $13.50 per pill, to $750.
Reaction to the announcement has been swift and furious, with medical professionals, politicians and industry experts calling the move “outrageous” and “unjustifiable”.
Social media has erupted with disgust, following media reports quoting Shkreli as saying the move was because the company “needed to turn a profit” on the drug.
Shkreli has defended the move on shows like CNBC and Bloomberg, explaining the rationale behind the steep price hike.
He said that while the cost to produce the drug is really cheap (around $1.00), distribution costs, research costs, and the cost of focused patient treatment projects would climb into multiple millions of dollars – while the drug only attracted revenue of around $5 million, previously.
He accused media and other commentators of not seeing the bigger picture – that he was bringing the price in line with competitors, and that it would result in more buy-in and treatment development.
However, his comments have not won many over.
Shkreli defends the move:
“We’re the first company that really focused on this product. And I think that’s a great thing, because ultimately companies before us were actually just giving it away, almost,” he told Bloomberg.
“The price that they were pricing it at, $13.50, you only needed less than 100 pills, so at the end of the day the price per course of treatment — to save your life — was only $1,000.”
Shkreli argued that profit-incentive drives development in drug and drug research, and that it will lead to an overall improvement in generics, which he welcomed.
“We’re spending millions of dollars making a better version of Daraprim, a version that’s less toxic – Daraprim is very toxic – and trying to turn a fair profit.”
When pushed on the fairness to patients, Shkreli said the company wasn’t anti-people.
“Half of our drugs we give away for $1.00 – I think that shows our commitment to patients. And if you can’t afford the drug, we will give it away totally for free.”
“It’s an impediment (to the goal of making a profit) but we will never deny someone treatment because they can’t pay…it’s something we will resolve with an insurer.”
You can see the full Bloomberg interview below