Bioethics Blogs

What’s a Fair Price for a Medication?

Photo Credit: healthnewsreview.org

Greedy pharma execs have been in the news of late. Here is a story on the topic, from Wired. The reporter misquotes me. I never said Apple could make profits selling iPhones for $10. I said that even if they could profit at that price, they’d be crazy to do so if people would pay lots more.

Martin Shkreli is the Internet’s villain of the week. After buying and then immediately jacking up the price of a drug that treats a potentially deadly parasite, he’s become a sneering meme in social media, a think-piece punching bag, and a policy springboard for presidential candidates. He gives a bad name to former hedge fund pharmaceutical CEOs everywhere.

How can that be? Drug companies and greed are supposed to go together like bankers and um, greed. Shkreli recently capitulated to the public outrage and said he’d drop his drug’s price. But he hasn’t backed down from his rationale for the original price hike: This is what it takes to do research, to be profitable, to be successful in his highly regulated industry.

And in a way, he’s right. Long before you ever have a chance to balk at drug prices, the companies that make the medicine rack up billion-dollar tabs from research, development, and clinical trials. Insurance companies negotiate for distribution, and whittle more money away from a company’s bottom line. Not to mention that without profits, investors won’t invest in pharma, and drugs won’t get made. So is Shkreli really an excessive rogue actor, or is he merely playing by the same rules as the rest of the pharmaceutical industry?

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.