Health

Australian Teens Just Ruined Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli's Business

Published On 12/01/2016 Published On 12/01/2016
martin shkreli daraprim house oversight hearing on price increase
Martin Shkreli at the House Oversight Hearing On Prescription Drug Price Increases | Bloomberg/Getty Images

Martin Shkreli's cash-cow drug Daraprim was obliterated yesterday when Australian news service The Age reported that Sydney schoolboys had re-created the $375 drug for $2 a dose.

Shkreli, as the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, infamously hiked the price of Daraprim -- an anti-parasitic drug labeled essential by the World Health Organization -- from $13.50 to $750. It's used to treat diseases like malaria, pneumocystosis, and toxoplasmosis, and is especially important for people with compromised immune systems, like those with HIV and chemotherapy patients. It's always fun to extort money from cancer patients, right? 

Thankfully, it seems there's some karma left in the universe. High school students at Sydney Grammar School were able to re-create Daraprim with just a sample of the drug, a chemistry lab, and generic ingredients you can buy online. From 17g of raw materials, they were able to cook up 3.7g of pyrimethamine, the chemical name for Daraprim, for about $2 a dose.

"We started off with 20 grams of it worth $20," James Wood, a 17-year-old student, told The Age. "We ended up with $37,000 worth of Daraprim."

The students and organization they worked with, University of Sydney's Open Source Malaria Consortium, were transparent that this was a reaction to the predatory pharmaceutical pricing of which Shkreli has become the symbol.

Despite the public backlash, Daraprim still costs $375. The scandal, along with the ongoing Theranos affair and the EpiPen price hike, are among the biggest public health outrages of the last two years. But the efforts of a few Aussie teens go to show that if you try to make drugs affordable, it can be done... as long as you want to do it. 

"I personally think it's ethically wrong to place a profit over the welfare of people," Wood says.

Shkreli's reaction to the backlash he faced over his price gouging was far from gracious. He called journalists morons, claimed his actions weren't greedy at all but "altruistic," hurled insults online, and badgered women on Twitter

Then he purchased the single copy in existence of legendary Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for $2 million, and trolled the world with it after Donald Trump was elected president. Oh yeah, and he was also charged with securities fraud and arrested last year. While there's still a long way to go before a $2 version of Daraprim becomes available, it's nice to see that some people use their powers for the forces of good.

For his part, Shkreli really, really wants people to know this definitely didn't show him up. Here he is in his own words...

UPDATE 12/2: Martin Shkreli released a statement congratulating the Australian students. Earlier this week, he also tweeted at the account @god that he wants to have sex with noted singer Jewel.

H/T: The Age

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Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him @e_vb_.

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