Back in October of 2013, I wrote a post about the rising cost of medication due to re-patenting. Specifically, I linked to a New York Times article “The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath”, which illustrated the effect of how the cost of medication can change – no matter the age of the medication, the amount of development or research still needed, cost to manufacture, or demand – simply by re-patenting the drug so that it does not slip into the cheap seats of the OTC/generic world. And it did so with asthma medications, as asthma is the most common chronic disease that affects people in America, according to the article.
I had some awareness of this before 2013 thanks to my many years of time spent taking a variety of brand name and generic epilepsy medications, but I didn’t quite get it until the article broke it down.
Now, now, it comes home again. I’m sure y’all know where I’m going with this. That’s right. Martin Shkreli.
As anyone reading the news knows by now (or who Googles his name), he is a “hedge fund manager”, which to most people is simple innuendo for ‘limb of Satan’, so he’s starting off on the wrong foot.
The big deal now is that he got the patent rights to a toxoplasmosis drug, used by AIDS and cancer (and other) patients, and hiked up the price like mad. Less than $15 to more than $700. A pill. Not a month or a bottle. A pill.
Now, as a hedge fund dude, I look at this and say, iiiinteresting. Because, for example, H. Clinton fired at this guy, calling him out basically and saying she wouldn’t stand for it, and the biotech industry stocks basically tanked overnight. What if he was betting on that? Or if someone was betting on that? Listen, I’ll be the first to say my understanding of the financial markets is slim, at best, but people don’t always buy things to make them big and successful. Sometimes there’s more money in tearing them apart. And I’m wondering if there’s something in that, with this.
Moving beyond that wobbly financial betting stuff I know so little about, let’s move back to the medical side, which I know a little more about. Because now we’re right back, right back where we started.
Toxoplasmosis and Daraprim. According to this BBC article “Who is Martin Shkreli – ‘The Most Hated Man in America’?, Daraprim was developed in the 1950s. That’s right, this medication, like that asthma medication in the Times article, is over 50 years old. And yet, because of the lethal combination of assholes and re-patenting, the cost of this medication has now skyrocketed thousands of percent points above what it was only days ago.
Martain claims he was concerned that the company was not making money. First, allow me to quote myself from my 2013 post:
When medicine becomes more about profit than about empathetic care, it’s no longer medicine. It’s forcing you to buy your own time. Not just for happy living, but for ACTUALLY living.
Second, let me just say you don’t have to mark it up 5000%! $13.50 to $750 a pill! THE FUCK?! There’s more wrong with your company than just the simple price of a pill, if your company can’t survive without marking up it’s medication that much. Again, toxoplasmosis, old parasite, old medication, not much development needed there. He says (taken from a The Atlantic article),
“This is a disease where there hasn’t been one pharmaceutical company focused on it for 70 years,” Shkreli continued, the corners of his mouth angled upward. “We’re now a company that is dedicated to the treatment and cure of toxoplasmosis. And with these new profits we can spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug, in my opinion.”
But medical research is oftentimes government funded, and considering the pure money-driven factor in his raising costs in previous cases/companies, the chance of him curing something that would end the need for his product? Highly unlikely. The article also mentions that there’s also a lack of disclosure on where funds are actually going. (Like I stated above, it’s more than the pill that’s the problem.)
How anything could justify a drug costing hundreds or thousands of dollars—in the case of the hepatitis C medication Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment—while still clearing a 30-percent industry-wide profit margin is difficult to conceive. It might be easier to conceive if budgets were transparent. But, as Gregg Gonsalves, co-director of the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale Law School emphasized to me, no major pharmaceutical company has ever been willing to disclose how much it actually spends on research and development.
Cost of manufacturing all things has gotten cheaper not more expensive. Ditto cost of packaging and distribution. The only thing that’s gotten more expensive is greed.
A dollar is no longer good enough. It needs to be two. Or three. Or ten. Or a hundred. Thousand. Million.
On a more personal note, toxoplasmosis can be transferred through cats, and can lead to seizures. As a cat having seizure sufferer, let me just say: Screw this guy. And all people like him. Fuck all people who take advantage of the disadvantaged in such a way. There should be laws against this sort of thing, not laws allowing and helping it to occur.
Let us return once more to my original post, and that original Times article from two years ago. This is not a new problem. It’s just that Martin here is a giant douche-weevil. In a way, he might just be the hero we deserve, the hero America deserves (thanks Nolan-Batman). The hero America created. The one who will show us all who we are, who will bring Big Pharma and all it’s vile dealings out of the back rooms and into the streets, onto Twitter and Facebook, where they’ll be ridiculed and torn down until they’re nothing but shreds of their former selves.
Then, in the daylight, they will be forced to be better.
And we’ll be able to look back and say, we couldn’t have done it without that giant douche-weevil, that limb of Satan, Martin Shkreli.