It’s not unheard of for pharmaceutical companies to charge seemingly unreasonable amounts for medication used to treat life-threatening diseases, but there is one company that has been in the news recently. Turing, an American based company formed in early 2015 by Martin Shkreli, acquired the manufacturing licence for Daraprim in August, and recently announced the price of the drug would be going through changes. Keep in mind that Daraprim is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. The original price of Daraprim was $13.50, so you could expect them to raise the price to $20 a pill if they were REALLY struggling, and then reduce it again when they were more financially stable, right? Okay, so they say they’re investing in research and development. $50 might be justifiable, at a push. That’s about 370% of the original price. But that’s not even close to what Turing wanted to charge. The company would have had one pill retailing at $750 – 5555.5% of the original price! It’s hard to see how anyone could do that to anyone without having a very guilty conscience, but Shkreli cared so little that he responded to criticism from the media with quotes from the popular rapper Eminem. But as the news spread, the backlash was so great that even Shkreli, who is “really good at logic, difficult situations and tough choices” (according to his OKCupid profile), had to back down and lower the price to an as of yet undisclosed reduced price.
One last thing to spend some time thinking about – if this kind of reaction can make Shkreli reduce the price of Daraprim, can the same be done to other companies who charge extreme prices for vital medicines? Could Phizer, who were accused of charging “excessive and unfair” prices for Phenytoin sodium capsules in August 2015, be convinced to lower the prices if people simply stood up and said ‘This is not okay’? If pharmaceutical companies charged fair amounts for their medicines, could the NHS avoid having to cut junior doctors’ wages?