Bioethics Blogs

Daraprim and Predatory Pricing: Martin Shkreli’s 5000% Hike

Turing Pharmaceuticals recently acquired the drug Daraprim and immediately raised the price over 5000%, from $13.50 to $750 a pill; the annual price for some patients rose as high as several hundred thousand dollars. Daraprim was developed in the 1950s to treat toxoplasmosis, a relatively common parasitic infection. Patients with weakened immune systems—such as those with HIV/AIDS—are at increased susceptibility and the drug is in fairly widespread distribution.

After the price hike, Turing’s CEO, former hedge-fund manager Martin Shkreli, became the most-hated man in America, widely panned for greed and predatory pricing. He also did himself no favors through social media, for example by posting inflammatory photos. While his Twitter account has now been made private, there are some gems still cached. For example: “How do I sleep at night? You know, Ambien.” Or: “it seems like the media immediately points a finger at me[;] I point one back at em [sic], but not the index or pinkie.” I doubt he means his ring finger or thumb. Amid the furor, Shkreli backtracked, saying he would lower the price, though with no indication as to what that new price would be.

While Daraprim has dominated the headlines, this pricing trend is not uncommon. Last year, Valeant Pharmaceuticals acquired Isuprel and Nitropress—both of which are used to treat heart-related ailments—from Marathon Pharmaceuticals. After the acquisition, Valeant raised the price of Isuprel 525% and the price of Nitropress 212%. Cycloserine—a drug used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis—was hiked 2100% after its acquisition by Rodelis Therapeutics.

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.