Martin Shkreli Is Jacking Up Drug Prices Again
'Pretty devastating'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2015 10:05 AM CST
AIDS activists and others protest Martin Shkreli's last instance of massively raising drug prices.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(Newser) – Stop us if you've heard this one before: Internet villain Martin Shkreli's company just bought the rights to a drug that's been used to treat a serious infectious disease since the 1970s and is planning to drastically jack up the price. Reuters reports Shkreli's new company, KaloBios, paid $2 million for the rights to benznidazole, which is used to treat Chagas disease. The disease is prominent in Latin America and can lead to fatal heart problems, according to the New York Times. In Latin America, a round of benznidazole treatment costs between $50 and $100. If KaloBios can secure FDA approval for it, Shkreli is planning to charge US patients between $60,000 and $100,000. A doctor describes the plan as "pretty devastating" and says people with Chagas disease—who are typically poor immigrants without insurance—are "in an uproar."

Making matters even worse, the Times reports Shkreli is unlikely to make much off benznidazole. Shkreli is counting on 3,000 to 7,000 patients per year, but there have only been seven acute cases of Chagas disease in the US since 1955 and disease control centers around the country only give 60 to 70 rounds of treatment total per year. "I don't see him having a market at all," one doctor says. So why's he doing it? According to Reuters, the government gives expedited-review vouchers to companies making drugs to treat "neglected" parasitic diseases. Companies have been able to sell those vouchers, which trim the review process by four months, to others for up to $350 million, the Times reports. Many believe that's exactly Shkreli's plan. (Shkreli himself made a much decried $2 million purchase recently.)