Science triumphs over greed! Love it!
“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli has made a name for himself as a pop culture heel over the past year, doing things like threatening to break the only copy of Wu Tang‘s unique album.
But don’t forget the truly heinous reason we know him at all — because he bought the rights to Daraprim and raised the price 5500% from $13.50 to $750 per dose.
Daraprim, chemically known as pyrimethamine, is used to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis in AIDS patients, and is named on the World Health Organization‘s list of essential medicines.
And this tool tried to gouge the price to make himself a profit off of people in need.
However, a group of Australian high school students have put a crimp in his medicinal monopoly plans; they figured out how to create a generic version of the drug for just $2!
University of Sydney professor Dr. Alice Williamson, who presented Sydney Grammar School with the challenge, said the students “shared the outrage of the general public” at Shkreli’s avarice. She told The Guardian:
“I couldn’t get this story out of my head, it just seemed so unfair especially since the drug is so cheap to make and had been sold so cheaply for so long. I said ├óΓé¼╦£Why don’t we get students to make Daraprim in the lab’, because to me the route looked pretty simple. I thought if we could show that students could make it in the lab with no real training, we could really show how ridiculous this price hike was and that there was no way it could be justified.”
The students had to think up a new way to recreate pyrimethamine because Turing Pharmaceuticals‘s patented process is way too dangerous.
But in a high school lab, they figured out a new process to turn just a few dollars worth of raw materials into about $110,000 worth of the drug at Shkreli’s price. Associate professor Matthew Todd recounted:
“Alice did the analysis and looked at the screen and said ├óΓé¼╦£Oh my god, they’ve done it.’
And not only have they done it, it’s super pure. It’s A-grade. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was the moment. I realised they had nailed it. The students were over the moon.”
The new version of pyrimethamine can’t yet be sold in the open market in the U.S.
“Turing has the exclusive rights to sell it, even though the drug is no longer under patent. The ridiculousness of this legal loophole means if we wanted to launch it as drug in the US we’d have to go through a whole new clinical trial because we would have to compare the Sydney Grammar stuff with the officially sanctioned stuff, and Turing would have to give us the drug to allow those comparisons to be made. It’s not just a matter of going to the store and buying the Turing drug either, they would have to hand it over directly.”
This is still an amazing challenge to the Pharma Bro and all like him who prey on the helpless.
You kids rock!
[Image via Bloomberg TV.]