Web Roundup: A busy month for Pharma… by Jane Roberts

This month it was hard not to pay attention to what was happening in the world of Pharma, where several cases came to light illustrating just how murky and contested the role of one of the most powerful industries in the world is in shaping not just business practices, but collective social and moral consciousness as well.

A recent Gallup poll has highlighted the increasing wariness with which Americans view the pharmaceutical industry. According to the poll, Americans view the high cost of prescription drugs as the main reason for rising healthcare costs, and the pharmaceutical industry is consistently ranked in the bottom third of sectors since 2003, when Gallup expanded the list to 25 industries.

Among the many Pharma related concerns on the web this month, price hikes and profiteering have stood out with regards to the Daraprim scandal highlighting how a lack of regulation in this are can take its toll. The decision by Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals to raise the price of the drug, used to treat a life threatening parasitic infection often most apparent in those with compromised immune systems, from $13.50 to $750 overnight symbolized to many just how broken, and in need of regulation the system is.

The public response to the scandal from the medical community argued that boosting the price to $750 comes as a result of uninformed reasoning, noting that there is no dire public health need of new drugs to target Taxoplasmosis, but rather this is an issue of greed, plain and simple. The article presents the views of leading infectious disease doctors who set out to clear up the errors Shkreli has used to defend his decision, such as suggesting that patients only take the drug for four to six weeks, when in fact it often requires 6-12 months worth of maintenance, or another claim in which Shkreli hopes that Turing pharmaceuticals will ultimately eradicate the disease, an idea which falls flat in reality, as Toxoplasmosis is everywhere and isn’t an issue for most people.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.