What do you get when you combine a hedge fund manager with medicine? Greed driven parasites who take advantage of not only the sick, but the tax payer medical system we have today.
Escalating drug prices have been a major problem for the last few years, and have really been driven off of “Obamacare” where now taxpayers are footing the bill for medical care more than ever.
The system has been a huge gift to both Pharma as well as insurance companies, as drug prices as well as insurance rates and premiums are like a run a way train out of control- and as you will soon see is opening the door for this pharma executive that gives new meaning to the words parasite and greed.
In the pharmacy, we have seen generic medications such as the thyroid medication levothyroxine, rise in cost from the manufacturer thousands of percentages, the same with antibiotics that have been around forever, such as erythromycin and doxycycline- and for no good reason. No drug shortage, no increasing regulations on the generic industry—only because they can.
We are also seeing it with potentially life-saving drugs, where there are no alternatives, and the latest example is a medication used to treat toxoplasmosis.
The drug is called pyrimethamine, marketed under the trade name of Daraprim (pyrimethamine) which is the only medication approved by the FDA, which due to issues of resistance, is often combined with a sulfonamide and leucovorin, to treat toxoplasmosis.
Where the CDC states that,
“more than 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasmaparasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.
However, women newly infected with Toxoplasma during pregnancy and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware that toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences.”
—These are the people in need of the medication pyrimethamine, where often it is their best bet to save their life.
Here are Whole Pharmacy we are all for innovation, we are all for those who solve major problems, should reap their rewards…but when the rights to such as medication are simply purchased, and the new owners jack the price up from $13.50 a pill to over $750 a pill, we recognize this merely as an opportunist play, birthed out of greed, not innovation, while reeking of arrogance.
On August 10, 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals AG announced that it has acquired the exclusive rights to market Daraprim® (pyrimethamine) in the U.S. from Impax Laboratories, Inc. The price hike subsequently followed, with no improvement in the medication, nothing done to make sure it gets in the hands of more patients.
“The acquisition of Daraprim and our toxoplasmosis research program are significant steps along Turing’s path of bringing novel medications to patients with serious disorders, some of whom often go undiagnosed and untreated,” said Martin Shkreli, Turing’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
The problem is, that’s not what happened and Turing had to respond to clinics and hospitals around the country with concern that the medication could no longer be obtained due to the enormous price hike.
What is really concerning is the roots of Turing, as it was started by a former Hedge Fund manager who already has a less than stellar history in pharma.
As reported in August on Forbes.com about Turing Pharmaceuticals founder, Martin Shkreli,
Martin Shkreli—then 29 years old and a rather outspoken manager of the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management—attracted some acclaim when he started his own biotech company, Retrophin, and began pursuing therapies for rare diseases. He served at the helm of Retrophin until last fall, when the company ousted him, later alleging that he improperly passed off legal settlements with MSMB investors as consulting agreements. Now Retrophin is taking the dispute with the controversial entrepreneur a step further.Retrophin filed a federal lawsuit against Shkreli on Monday in New York alleging that he created the biotech and took it public solely to provide stock to MSMB investors when the hedge fund became insolvent. The suit seeks more than $65 million in damages and a requirement that Shkreli disgorge all the compensation he received from Retrophin during the time he acted as a “faithless servant” to it, as the claim reads. Turing Pharmaceuticals, another biotech startup that Shkreli founded this past February, is not named in the suit.
This was obviously not Mr Shkreli’s first rodeo at obtaining rights to a drug with no competition and drastically raising its prices for no apparent reason.
During his time at the firm from 2011 to his resignation in October last year, it acquired the rights to sell Thiola, which is used to treat cystinuria.Sufferers may take the drug for life, starting in early childhood, in an effort to manage the rare and incurable disease that afflicts about 20,000 patients in the United States.It causes sufferers’ bodies to constantly create kidney stones, causing excruciating pain, severe organ damage and in some cases, death.Thiola was approved to treat cystinuria by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1988 and was acquired by Retrophin in May 2014.Some patients must take between five to 10 of the tablets every day.Benjamin Davies, the Assistant Professor of Urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, wrote for The Street in September 2014 that the firm increased the price from $1.50 (£1) per pill to more than $30 (£20) for the same product – an increase of almost 2,000 per cent.
“As a physician, treating cystinuria patients is extremely difficult,” he wrote. “You can remove a kidney stone one day only to have the patient show up the next month with more kidney stones. Cystinuria patients are some of the bravest you will ever meet.”“As the only supplier of the drug to the US, Retrophin has increased the price for the drug just because it can,” pharmaceutical finance expert Steve Brozak wrote in Forbes in September 2014.“Even though it’s a generic drug that any company with development capability could bring to market, there are no alternatives for Thiola on the market…Retrophin (is) turning patients into commodities like barrels of oil.”
In both of these cases, the only unique drugs for their conditions- with often no alternative options, under the control of someone whose interest only seems to raise drug prices, not consciousness or availability of the medication.
This reminds me of a comment by the founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos:
“There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”
And it’s apparent where the bulk of Pharma and medicine stand.
Where we are cautious of increasing regulations, there needs to be something done about opportunists like this Pharma Executive, as the environment in the Pharma industry is too ripe for this to be done.