Last year Martin Shkreli came into public knowledge after he increased the price of life-saving medicine Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. The pharmaceutical entrepreneur bought the medicine back in August 2015 during his search to buy rarely used pharmaceuticals. According to an official statement from his prior company Turing Pharmaceuticals, Turing aims to discover innovative treatments for conditions across a broad range of therapeutic areas. This includes buying medication used to treat rare, tropical conditions and investing in research and development to improve said pharmaceuticals. However, the raising of the pharmaceuticals price and the amount of media coverage surrounding this event may raise public awareness of a practice which many pharmaceutical businesses in the U.S partake in.
Daraprim is a 62-year-old medicine, which is used beside other medication to treat Toxoplasmosis. It is also used to treat acute malaria and prevent pneumonia in AIDS patients with depleted immune systems. It is normally used for a short duration depending on the reasons for taking the treatment. It is considered a life-saving medicine. It has been available for reproduction for years however there has been limited new research concerning toxoplasmosis being conducted by other pharmaceutical companies. Turing Pharmaceuticals claims to justify the price increase as a method of developing a new medicine to treat Toxoplasmosis.
The healthcare system in the U.S differs to the United Kingdom’s. The United States’ healthcare system involves having health insurance or potentially paying high medical bills should an American citizen need treatment or medication. However, the U.S healthcare system may have high productive efficiency in comparison to other countries in the world. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service provides free care and prescription costs in England for those who need them. Therefore, someone who needs Daraprim in the United Kingdom may visit the doctor and pay insignificantly in comparison for a course of treatment. Whereas, in the United States, people who need Daraprim may access the treatment through health insurance policies or face paying high medical fees without insurance. In light of this situation, Turing Pharmaceuticals has announced a Daraprim Direct program which ensures those in America who need Daraprim despite their health insurance situation are able to gain access to the treatment for a reduced cost or for free.
Martin Shkreli’s well-publicised price increase story may be the start of reform within the U.S pharmaceutical industry. His case may have productive aspects to it, as it may encourage the American government to look more closely at large pharmaceutical companies and their reasons for price increase without re-investment into research and development. To promote research and development, patent laws protect medical firms in the U.S from competition and tax subsidies increase their profits. However, several companies have been found to be participating in activities which may tarnish their brand perceptions, despite their strong reputation and position in the industry. These cases have brought to light the power that pharmaceutical companies hold in the industry. For example, Pfizer, an American biopharmaceutical company, has paid millions in settlement cases concerning unwarranted medication and fixing prices on antibiotics. This suggests that the American government are pro-actively taking on large medical companies and certain situations within the pharmaceutical industry are being noticed.
This case may bring greater awareness to the power of pharmaceutical companies in the U.S and the way in which healthcare is provided. It may encourage the American government to persuade many pharmaceutical companies to provide reasonable prices which are far from solely for the purpose of generating more profit. Martin Shkreli’s case is ongoing and his actions may prompt the start of productive changes within the pharmaceutical industry.
How might high priced life-saving treatments be justified?