A single tweet from Senator Bernie Sanders’ account attacking price gouging at a major pharmaceutical company has sent the drugmaker’s stock tumbling almost 15% today. This morning Sanders’ Twitter account tweeted an article describing frequent price hikes at Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc with the commentary “Drug corporations’ greed is unbelievable. Ariad has raised the price of a leukemia drug to almost $199,000 a year.”
Drug corporations’ greed is unbelievable. Ariad has raised the price of a leukemia drug to almost $199,000 a year. https://t.co/EB4nEPxP2G
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 14, 2016
Ariad has raised the price of Iclusig, its treatment for a rare form of leukemia that is used by a few thousand people, more than 60% over the past two years. It now stands at more than $16,000 for a month’s supply of pills, amounting to the entirely unaffordable figure of almost $200,000 per year. Ariad is only one of many drug companies that have recently come under fire for completely unjustified price hikes that serve to line the pockets of Wall Street investors at the expense of the American people. Indeed sales of Iclusig almost doubled to $65 million in the second quarter this year, further enriching the 1% as everyday Americans’ lives hang in the balance.
So the reaction to Sanders’ tweet struck many as perfect karma. With the company’s share price tumbling to $11.14 as of this afternoon, investors were out some $387 million. The pharmaceutical industry, with its tremendously inflated prices, has proven particularly susceptible to influence from twitter. Hillary Clinton’s tweets denouncing price gouging have repeatedly sent health stocks plunging, particularly that of Mylan NV, whose EpiPen emergency allergy treatment shot up in price over the summer.
The commercialization and deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry, which has led big drug companies towards increasingly profit- rather than health-oriented policies is clearly a grave injustice to the American people. While Sen. Sanders’ presidential campaign – with its particular emphasis on going after big pharma – may be over, the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton seems to have largely taken up the Vermont senator’s mantle of anti-pharma crusader, and has promised to continue working to make healthcare affordable for the American people in the spirit of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.