Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has been in the news recently for raising the price of an “AIDS drug” from $13.50 to $750. However, there may be several things you didn’t know about the controversy that simply aren’t getting much coverage, instead overblowing only the most outrage-sounding aspects (which are most half-truths).
1. Daraprim is not an AIDS drug. Daraprim cures toxoplasmosis, and is not used to treat AIDS. Toxoplasmosis is an obscure parasitic infection that some AIDS sufferers might get, and the treatment for it is only about 100 pills. Since it is a cure, rather than simply a treatment, you wouldn’t need to take it indefinitely like AIDS sufferers must do to treat their autoimmune condition. Calling Daraprim an “AIDS drug” is like calling flu treatments a drug for schizophrenia, since schizophrenics can get the flu too.
2. Turing Pharmaceuticals gives away the drug for $1/tablet each or even for free, which is a drastic drop in price, not an increase. According to this Bloomberg video interview, Martin himself describes how the company will work with patients who need Daraprim to make sure they get it even when insurance company negotiations are still on the table. “If you can’t afford the drug, we’ll give it away totally for free,” Martin says in the Bloomberg interview. He’s not limiting access, he’s expanding the free program that was in place before, and increasing access. He’s not holding it for ransom.
3. It’s not price gouging. Price gouging would be like a desert oasis charging $750 for a sip of water, instead of giving it away freely to those in need of hydration. This situation is like a large desert oasis in which there are several shops that sell a sunburn lotion for $900, and the one single shop that used to offer it for $14 raised the price to $750 — which is still lower than everyone else — but also just gave it away to those who couldn’t pay $750.