Remember Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund manager who last year founded Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired an essential anti-parasitic drug, and quickly jacked up its price 55-fold, from $13.50 to $750 a pill? Well, he's just been shown up by a group of high school chemistry students in Australia who've produced a generic version of Turing's drug, Daraprim, for $2 a pill, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Led by chemist Alice Williamson and motivated by a dose of disgust, a class of Sydney Grammar School students turned 17 grams of 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile into 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine, the active ingredient in Daraprim. If that sold in the US as Daraprim, it would cost about $100,000 because of the price hike, notes the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The project was more about principle than anything else, says Williamson. "I thought if we could show that students could make it in the lab with no real training, we could really show how ridiculous this price hike was and that there was no way it could be justified," she tells the Guardian. Shkreli has taken to Twitter to note his lack of enthusiasm: "almost any drug can be made at small scale for a low price. glad it makes u feel good tho." Also, don't hold your breath waiting for this cheaper alternative to show up in the US. Williamson says complex legal rules effectively make it impossible. "We'd have to go through a whole new clinical trial because we would have to compare the Sydney Grammar stuff with the officially sanctioned stuff—and Turing would have to give us the drug to allow those comparisons to be made." (Shkreli made news of the musical variety when Donald Trump won.)