Post by SamB. Featured Image by NEPA Scene
Most people who know who Martin Shkreli is also hate him. He gained national criticism when he raised the price of life saving drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750. People say that is much too high for a life saving drug that treats toxoplasmosis, an infection in some people with HIV. His decision has been the subject of much discussion this election season with candidates all around picking on Shkreli. Hillary Clinton, according to Business Insider, said that Shkreli should “do the right thing” and that she will “hold him accountable”. Donald Trump , in this Business Insider article, said Shkreli was a spoiled brat, and that his tax plan will hit people like Shkreli the hardest. However, despite all the naysayers, Shkreli is a good person, and what he did is good as well.
First off, the claim that some people won’t be able to pay for the drug because of the price increase is just wrong. According to Shkreli in this Vice interview, the insurance companies will be the ones suffering for the hike, not the consumer. Now, you may think that the insurance companies will pass the cost off to the consumer, but the drug industry is so massive (according to statista, a conservative estimate of the value of the industry is 425 billion) that a price increase on even the biggest of drugs (which Daraprim is not.) won’t affect premiums. Even so, if someone was to be put in the position of not being able to afford the lifesaving drug, Turing sells it to the government for one dollar per pill, and Shkreli will give it to anyone who contacts him about it for free. Finally, there are some hospitals who claimed that they cannot stock the drug for emergency situations, so Turing Pharmaceutical has made a smaller, cheaper bottle for them. It doesn’t need to be the full size since again, Daraprim has a miniscule audience and an emergency situation is unlikely. Also, Daraprim isn’t a drug you take for a lifetime. You take it, it kills the infection, and you’re done. In that sense, it’s still pretty cheap.
Now, lets talk about greed. Most people who hate Shkreli think that his move was nothing but a cash grab to get himself and his shareholders rich. And in a sense that’s true. Shreli himself, in an interview by Vanity Fair says: “My investors expect me to maximize profits[.]” It was his job as chief executive to maximize profits. However, Shkreli himself, according to this The Odyssey Online article, takes no salary from the profits of Daraprim. Before the price hike, Daraprim simply was not profitable as a product, and it was Shkreli’s job to change that. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with greed anyway. The greedy desire for money has caused inventors and businessmen everywhere to create products and services that improve the lives of those who choose to use them, and Shkreli is no different.
Martin Shkreli has a different motivation than money for Daraprim’s price increase. Turing Pharmaceuticals goal is to use the profits from Daraprim to research a new treatment to replace Daraprim, among other things. Daraprim is an old drug. According to the same The Odyssey Online article, Daraprim hasn’t been upgraded since the 1940’s, and its age shows. Setting aside the risk of an immunity developing when only one drug is used to combat every case of toxoplasmosis for 60 years, the drug has some scary side effects. According to WebMD’s description of Daraprim, its common side effects are nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, but the more serious effects can be blood problems, extreme dizziness, chest pain, and infection. Daraprim needs an alternative, and the profits raised by its price hike can help achieve that. However, its not just Daraprim. According to the same Vanity Fair article, he was motivated by the story of a young boy was afflicted by muscle dystrophy to develop treatments for rare and deadly diseases.
Some people claim that Turing would have made more money without the hike, since the low price would attract more customers. However, that is false as well. In other cases perhaps, but not Daraprim’s. Daraprim is special for a few reasons. First, the ailment it treats is not widespread. It has a very limited market. It treats a toxoplasmosis infection that’s very rare, so it has a low amount of demand to begin with. Since it’s a lifesaving drug, everyone who would buy it already does (or receives it through government aid or for free from Turing Pharmaceutical). Thus, keeping the price at the level it was at would not increase profits.
Now, some people may still hate Shkreli despite what I have said, simply because he seems like a total jerk. He enjoys playing the villain from time to time, at least in jest. According to this article by TIme, he bought the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s latest album. He has never listened to it, and won’t let anyone else listen either. He also plans that “Within 10 years, more than half of all rap/hip-hop music will be made exclusively for [him]”. He says he will share some of it. He frequently gets himself in flame wars of various intensity on twitter, and he livestreams himself arguing with his opposition. Online, he seems to have some disdain for people he deems less intelligent than he. However, according to the Vanity Fair interview, “he’s such a perfect villain when viewed from afar that it’s almost impossible not to like him more up close. He swerves seamlessly among obnoxious bravado, old-world politeness, purposeful displays of powerful intelligence, and even flashes of sweetness. He is slight and pale, almost vampirish, with dark hair, which he has a habit of twirling. He’s oddly twitchy (you can see this in the many lengthy livestreams he does of himself analyzing stocks) and fast-talking, especially when it comes to the scientific details of how drugs work. (“Most pharmaceutical C.E.O.’s don’t even know where the spleen is located,” he says.)” Of his online and public persona, he says that “anyone who knows me knows I am not that guy[,]” and that it’s really “an extremely weird form of sarcasm.” His favored sense of humor and online persona suggest heavily layered irony. He livestreams free finance and chemistry lessons on his Youtube channel. He has his own charity, where they make “charitable contributions to pioneering causes, especially within the medical community.” With his help, Retrophin (his old company) has advanced a drug for a rare kidney disease, according to this The Street article. Knowing a lot of the extravagant things he does are jokes, I feel it’s appropriate to excuse them, and look to the bright side.
Martin Shkreli did nothing wrong and if you still disagree you may have communism.