Shkreli’s Infamous $750 Pill Recreated By High Schoolers For Just $2
A team of high school students have created an inexpensive version of the drug Daraprim, which Martin Shkreli made infamous by increasing its cost by over 5,000%.
Martin Shkreli quickly became one of the most hated men in the world almost overnight, when he used his position at Turing Pharmaceuticals to jack up the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750. The 5,000% jump in the drug’s price quickly drew protests from the medical community as concerns were raised that many patients would soon be unable to afford the drug. Daraprim, one of the World Health Organization’s essential medicines, is commonly prescribed as an anti-parasitic. Despite the obvious price gouging at work here, Shkreli maintained that the increase was simply a savvy business decision. Though Shkreli tried to make amends by reducing the drug’s price for hospitals, it has remained at $750 per pill in the US where no generic version is available.
However, a group of Australian high school students have now shown just how ridiculous the drug’s inflated price really is. The students, attendees of Sydney Grammar School, were able to produce Daraprim’s active ingredient, pyrimethamine, for just $2 per pill. In their high school lab, they created 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine for just $20. Yet, that same amount would sell for between $35,000 and $110,000 a the current rate charged in the US. The students have worked as part of an after-school chemistry program to synthesize the drug ever since the price hike was announced. One of the students, Austin Zhang, told the Sydney Morning Herald, that “working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic.”
The students had to find a new way to create the drug from its raw ingredients as the patented method was too dangerous for their high school lab. The student’s chemistry teacher, Malcolm Binns, said the patented route “involved dangerous reagents,” forcing the group to find a work-around. The breakthrough came last week when they successfully produced 3.7 grams of Daraprim’s active ingredient from its base components via a safer, original method.
The students and their mentors have said they do not currently have plans to sell or market their version of the drug. Instead, they hoped to bring attention to the often unfair pricing models of pharmaceutical products that allow drugs such as Daraprim to be sold for $750 a dose in one country while doses in most countries are sold for just $1, sometimes less. Shkreli’s devious price increase was made possible by the “closed distribution model,” a model which forces any competitors to spend millions of dollars to pay for new clinical trials. This law clearly favors massive and unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies at the expense of those who need the medication to treat serious and even life-threatening illnesses. However, these students’ work may have inspired other manufacturers to try their new technique, which could potentially low Daraprim’s cost and, once again, make it affordable.
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Reprinted with permission from True Activist