The dark secrets of the exploitative and extortionist pharmaceutical industry are rising to the surface in the fallout of Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli’s public shaming. The universally despised “pharma bro” who bought the rights of an old HIV/AIDS drug, Daraprim, and promptly jacked up the price by 5000% has been caught investing in another pharmaceutical giant which is currently under investigation for possible fraud and is notorious for making a fortune by charging exorbitant rates to patients in desperate need of medication.
Shkreli announced on Twitter that he has “taken a long position in $VRX [Valeant] and shorted $AGN [Allergan] as a hedge. Both companies have similar prospects and one is at half the price,” meaning a long-term investment in the company which symbolizes all that wrong with modern capitalism. Shkreli stole the platform for his own company from Valeant, “whose business model has been to buy drugmakers, halt their R&D, slash jobs and then raise prices.”
Valeant made headlines for its purchase of two key heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress and then hiking the prices by 525 percent and 212 percent, respectively, which earned them $72 million and $62 million in one quarter, respectively. This year, they have also increased the price of Glumetza, a daily pill for diabetic patients, by 500 per cent. In total, the company has jacked up prices on 54 other meds this year alone by an industry-leading average of 65.6%.
It’s a very questionable decision considering the fact that they are under federal investigation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for their fraudulent business practices. A report published by the Citron Research Group recently called Valeant “the next Enron,” causing shares to plummet – “Citron Research has delivered the proof that something really stinks at Valeant and it is goes beyond their egregious price hikes.”
All of the backlash directed at the unfeeling Shkreli has fallen on deaf ears, as he continues to defend Valeant on Twitter. He should be wary, however, as the force of Democratic progressives is locked squarely on him and his entire corrupt industry. “It is unconscionable when drug companies take advantage of consumers by artificially inflating the prices of essential medications just to increase their profits,” raged Elijah Cummings. “We want to know why Valeant significantly raised the prices of these two vitally important drugs when the only thing that has changed about the drugs is the company that owns them.”
Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world, and it is absolutely reprehensible that these greedy hypercapitalists feel that it is acceptable for them to extort sick and dying Americans of out their money and making millions off their suffering. It’s far beyond time we took action action against these atrocious robber barons.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.