By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
If you were holding the difference between life and death for someone in your hands, what would you do?
If you’re Martin Shkreli, you’ll let them live – but only if they are able to fork up a ridiculous amount of money first.
This is currently the case at the Turing Pharmaceuticals company, of which Shkreli is CEO. Recently the company acquired the rights to Daraprim which, according to the FDA, is a drug that is often administered to patients with immune system deficiencies, such as AIDS, to treat parasitic infections.
Before Turing acquired the rights to produce the drug, it was being sold between $13.50 to $18.00 per pill. However given the first opportunity to turn a profit on someone else’s misfortune, Shkreli jacked the price up to $750 per pill overnight.
That’s an increase of more than 5,000 percent.
Almost immediately, Shkreli was victim to a slew of well-deserved backlash across the country from patients, journalists, professional doctors, scientists and social media users. After being called out for his insensitive and avaricious decision, Shkreli vowed to lower the price to something “more affordable,” according to BBC News. The price has not been changed, or even named, yet.
While Shkreli claimed that the company needed to turn a profit in order to invest money for future research of better medication, why should AIDS patients be the ones to foot the bill?
That’s like charging filet mignon prices at the soup kitchen so cities can conduct world hunger research.
As of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 1.2 million people in the United States are living with AIDS. Of those 1.2 million, 11 percent are estimated to have toxoplasmosis. This is the most common central nervous infection in patients with AIDS and can cause damage to the brain, eyes and other organs, flu-like symptoms and even seizures.
The CDC reports that nearly 25 percent of Americans are infected with toxoplasmosis because it can be transmitted through domesticated cat feces, but since AIDS patients have weakened immune systems, their bodies are unable to kill the parasite without help. That’s where Daraprim steps in, but the 5000 percent price gouge in the life-saving drug might be too expensive for some patients without the proper insurance coverage to continue buying.
What is even worse is that this isn’t the first instance of pharmaceutical companies trying to meet a profit margin from someone with a deadly illness. According to The New York Times, Rodelis Therapeutics did the same thing when it acquired the rights to Cycloserine. The drug, used to treat a type of tuberculosis resistant to other medications, went from $500 for 30 pills to over $10,800.
There is no need to raise prices of vital medication to the point of absurdity. Most drugs are relatively inexpensive to produce before being name-branded by major companies, such as Daraprim, which The New York Times reports was just $1 per pill before being acquired by CorePharma in 2010.
It’s gluttony and greed that resides at the heart of the issue. Corporations and those who run them have minds for making money rather than making the world a better place. That’s what business is all about and typically that’s fine, but not when someone’s life hangs in the balance. It’s the cruelest pitting of those with money against those without.
It’s wonderful that Shkreli is going to lower the price of Daraprim, but it never should’ve been raised in the first place. If he truly wants to conduct further research on better-suited medication, then he should write for grant money or dig into his own pockets rather than nickel-and-dime AIDS patients.
Until the moment that Shkreli lowers the price of Daraprim, he runs the risk of accumulating innocent blood on his hands. One thing is for sure: There’s no amount of money that can ever wash that away.