The offensively smug ‘pharma bro’ strikes again. You will recall that in September, hedge fund owner and living embodiment of white privilege Martin Shkreli became ‘the most hated man in America’ after his Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to 62-year-old Daraprim – a potentially lifesaving drug that fights parasitic infections in cancer and HIV/AIDS patients – and immediately raised the price by 5,000%, a shocking jump to $750 a pill from the $13.50 it had been selling for. As an article in today’s Guardian notes, after a firestorm of criticism spanning diverse outlooks (from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump), Shkreli promised to lower the price of the drug, but in a press release today, Turing’s chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, said:
“Drug pricing is one of the most complex parts of the healthcare industry. A drug’s list price is not the primary factor in determining patient affordability and access. A reduction in Daraprim’s list price would not translate into a benefit for patients.”
“We are committed to continuing the expansion of our distribution partnerships in order to facilitate optimal patient access. In addition to participation in federal and state programs with costs as low as 1 penny per pill, and patient savings programs under which patients’ out-of-pocket expenses do not exceed $10 per prescription…In order to better address the needs of physicians and patients, Turing will be introducing a 30-count bottle to address the needs of hospitals as well as a sample package to ensure physicians have timely and affordable access to therapy in emergency situations.”
Turing has decided instead to offer reductions of up to 50 percent to hospitals, and to introduce 30-count bottles and offer free sample-starter packages in 2016, but maintain its $750 price per tablet for a drug that used to sell for $1 a pill.
As the Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote in an open letter to Turing in September: “This cost is unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population in need of this medication and unsustainable for the healthcare system.” But, it appears that this means nothing to Shkreli and nor does his word. We thought a couple of weeks ago when Shkreli announced his commitment to meet the needs of physicians and their patients, he might have felt some remorse. However, what we know now is that he really is the smug, arrogant, and morally bankrupt hyper-capitalist scumbag – what the Washington Post called “the personification of evil.”
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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.