Today’s Hero of the Free Market

Hero (Wikimedia)

It’s Turing Pharmaceuticals owner Martin Shkreli:

Back when Martin Shkreli was CEO of Retrophin, he managed to grab a few headlines by buying an old rare-disease drug, Thiola, and raising the price 2000%. Now that he’s on to his next company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, he’s done himself one better, by buying another old drug and boosting the price 5000%.

The drug is Daraprim, which Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals bought a few weeks ago from Impax Laboratories. As Healio and USA Today reported in recent days, Turing immediately hiked the price from $13.50 per pill to $750.

“Under the current pricing structure, it is estimated that the annual cost of treatment for toxoplasmosis, for the pyrimethamine component alone, will be $336,000 for patients who weigh less than 60 kg and $634,500 for patients who weigh more than 60 kg,” wrote the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, according to Healio‘s story. “This cost is unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population in need of this medication and unsustainable for the health care system.”

Shkreli’s tireless efforts to exploit the for-profit healthcare industry with no regard for the literal life-and-death implications of what he’s doing makes him a perennial contender for this award:

This is not the first time the 32-year-old Mr. Shkreli, who has a reputation for both brilliance and brashness, has been the center of controversy. He started MSMB Capital, a hedge fund company, in his 20s and drew attention for urging the Food and Drug Administration not to approve certain drugs made by companies whose stock he was shorting.

In 2011, Mr. Shkreli started Retrophin, which also acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago. Last month, it filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing him of using Retrophin as a personal piggy bank to pay back angry investors in his hedge fund.

I just can’t fathom why anybody would complain that America’s health care industry is fundamentally and perversely broken when you hear uplifting stories like this. Sure, people who can’t afford the drugs they need are getting sick, but since when do we care about that? A vastly smaller number of extraordinarily privileged people are getting really rich(er) off of this stuff, and isn’t that the whole point of, well, everything?

ETA: HA HA Jesus Christ is this guy a real-life Bond villain or something?

shkreli

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Republican candidates unveil their generous “Die Quickly” healthcare initiatives

Marco Rubio and Scott Walker both revealed their alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, and if you’re anything shy of a millionaire, prepare to get excited: you’re not going to live too long under either of these plans!

Scott Walker’s plan makes the interesting decision to subsidize healthcare, like the ACA, but to base the size of the subsidies on age rather than income level. Obviously this is a very smart idea, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains:

For high earners, this might be great. Under Walker’s plan, Taylor Swift would get $1,200 to help buy coverage because she’s 25, while Obamacare would give her nothing on the grounds that she’s superrich. For lower-income people, this is a lousy deal: A 25-year-old earning $17,000 at a low-wage job would get a $1,962 credit under Obamacare.

Who wants to see Taylor Swift suffer? Nobody, that’s who. She deserves that money, dammit, and, well, I’m not gonna say that those of us who can’t sell 5 million or so albums deserve to die, but we certainly don’t deserve to not die if we get pneumonia or whatever, OK?

Walker’s plan also leaves in place the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions ha ha ha, of course it doesn’t really do that: Continue reading

Good news on the Ebola front

Potentially huge progress has been made in terms of developing an Ebola vaccine:

When Ebola flared up in a village, researchers vaccinated all the contacts of the sick person who were willing – the family, friends and neighbours – and their immediate contacts. Children, adolescents and pregnant women were excluded because of an absence of safety data for them. In practice about 50% of people in these clusters were vaccinated.

To test how well the vaccine protected people, the cluster outbreaks were randomly assigned either to receive the vaccine immediately or three weeks after Ebola was confirmed. Among the 2,014 people vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination – allowing time for immunity to develop – according to the results published online in the Lancet medical journal (pdf). In the clusters with delayed vaccination, there were 16 cases out of 2,380.

The vaccine is now being offered to all the contacts of any infected individuals in Guinea and Gabon. It’s unlikely that everyone who receives the vaccine will avoid contracting the disease, because nothing in life is 100%, but researchers estimate it will wind up having at least 75% efficacy, and that means both lot of lives saved and a real chance to finally put an end to the West African outbreak. I don’t know nearly enough about this sort of thing to say whether this vaccine will work against other strains of Ebola.

The West African Ebola outbreak has declined both in severity and public attention (I’m guilty of that too, I know), but it hasn’t gone away. Liberia was declared Ebola-free for a couple of months earlier this year, but has seen a few new cases in recent weeks. At the same time, the number of new cases in Sierra Leone and Guinea seems to have declined rapidly over the past couple of weeks. This new vaccine, a couple of others that are being tested, may be the final step in ending the outbreak, though (ah, the irony) the development of those other vaccines is now being impeded by the fact that there are too few new cases for proper testing.

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