"This isn't the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business. It really doesn't make sense to get any criticism for this." The "this" Martin Shkreli is referring to is the price hike his company instituted after it last month acquired Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug that the New York Times describes as "the standard of care" for treating those suffering from the potentially deadly parasitic infection toxoplasmosis. The overnight change made by start-up Turing Pharmaceuticals: from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. USA Today points out that's a 5,000% increase. Shkreli justified the move by saying the overall impact will be a minor one as there are only 12,000 or so prescriptions for the specialized drug a year, and because the proceeds will go toward developing a newer treatment with fewer side effects.
A professor of infectious diseases at Emory University isn't so sure about that plan. She tells the Times that while the drug is accompanied by potentially serious side effects, they're manageable. "I certainly don't think this is one of those diseases where we have been clamoring for better therapies," says Dr. Wendy Armstrong. The Times charts the drug's price history: Its 2010 acquisition by CorePharma saw its price hiked from $1 a tablet; that raised sales of the drug from $667,000 in 2010 to $6.3 million in 2011. The most recent price increase could push those sales into the hundreds of millions. As for what Daraprim treats, the CDC describes toxoplasmosis as "a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness" in the US. While some 60 million Americans are thought to carry the Toxoplasma parasite, it causes illness in those with weakened immune systems. (Read more pharmaceutical companies stories.)