The news site of Miami Palmetto Senior High School

5000% increase: a hard pill to swallow

October 5, 2015

Controversy arose recently when the entrepreneur and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, bought manufacturing licenses to the drug Daraprim, which has been used to treat diseases like malaria and AIDS. This promptly raised the price of the drug by over 5000%, shifting from $13 a pill to $833. As a result, Shkreli has received criticism from presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, as well as organizations such as HIV Medicine Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“I think that trying to help people with AIDS and malaria has been such a large movement so this is counteractive,” senior Elizabeth Cuenca said. “It’s like we’re moving backwards.”

Shkreli’s actions do not stand alone. While no pharmaceutical company’s actions have proved quite as bold as his in terms of price hikes, companies have raised the costs of drugs at such a high rate that it outpaces the natural devaluation of the American dollar. For instance, tetracycline, an antibiotic discovered in 1948, costed five cents per capsule in 2013. Two years later, a single pill costs $11; a 2200% increase.

While Martin Shkreli has promised to lower the price of Daraprim amid the controversy, his actions still reflect the state of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the medical industry at large. In 2014, a woman named Megan Rothbauer suffered a heart attack and received a bill of $50,000 when the ambulance took her to a hospital that her insurance did not cover. Insurance providers pay for a large chunk of these kinds of bills, which Shkreli cited when asked why he raised the price of Daraprim so high.

The issue has evolved beyond the scope of a single man’s actions and into a conversation about pharmaceutical company tactics maximize profits. As more information has come to light regarding drug pricing, companies producing drugs like Doxycycline (a 920% increase in two years) and Isuprel (a 626% increase in the same amount of time) have announced that they plan to lower the prices in the future.

“The drug industry should have some control over the pricing of this,” senior Natalie Bally said.

Such price hikes have left many confused over how things like this happen, opening up conversation on the topic. When a drug patent is filed, the specific brand of that drug has complete manufacturing rights for 20 years. When this period ends, similar generic-brand drugs can be manufactured. However, Daparim proves a nearly unprofitable enterprise because only 8,000 prescriptions for the drug are filed each year. Shkreli thus completely controls this corner of the market and holds the power to dictate the price of the drug.

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