Australian high school students recreate Martin Shkreli’s $750 pill for just $2
This week, students from Sydney Grammar school in Australia successfully recreated the active ingredients of Martin Shrkeli’s $750 pill, at just $20 for 3.7 grams, or $2 per pill. The students, with support from the Open Source Malaria project by the University of Sydney and the Australian government, recreated pyrimethamine, a key component to the drug recognized as an essential medicine by the World Health Organization, as it treats a common parasite that affects immunocompromised individuals.
After his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim (which pyrimethamine is marketed as), Shrkeli marked up the cost of the drug to $750 for just one pill for no apparent reason beyond personal greed. The pill helps treat the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis, which infects people with weakened immune systems, and namely people affected by HIV. Toxoplasmosis manifests itself in flu-like symptoms, but can be far more serious and detrimental to people with compromised immune systems. About 25 percent of all Americans are affected by toxoplasmosis, but at the end of 2015, Daraprim was marked up 5,000 percent, from $13.50 per pill to $750, rendering it inaccessible to many who depend on it for survival.
Turing Pharmaceuticals, which Shrkeli runs, went on to reduce the price by half for hospitals, but the hike from $13.50 to $375 per pill was still outrageous and ultimately unaffordable.
Brandon Lee and Milan Leonard, two students involved in the project, expressed their “euphoric” happiness with the product, while Shrkeli (probably feeling insecure and inadequate) took to Twitter to deny that he viewed the students as “competition” and to very maturely state that “anyone can make any drug it is pretty ez.”
While the students’ success with recreating the pill signals hope that perhaps very soon we could see it more widely available and at a more accessible price like, say, $2 instead of $375 per pill, unfortunately, the students’ creation won’t be available in America because of patent laws and a number of other restrictions. Still, if nothing else, the Australian students’ discovery serves as a delightful blow to America’s selfish, egotistical, and, FYI, Donald Trump-supporting “Pharma Bro,” as if Shrkeli’s arrest last year related to charges of securities fraud, or being called a “spoiled brat” by his hero, weren’t adequate enough.
In Australia, a bottle of 50 tablets of Daraprim costs just 13 Australian dollars (less than 10 U.S. dollars), and according to Leonard, he and his peers took on the project just to highlight how “ridiculous” the price of the drug is in America. Mission accomplished.