Your Money or Your Life

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts, without sufficient capital to form a corporation.” –Howard Scott

How in hell do big criminal organizations stay in business when shit like this is legal? Why in hell don’t we call this extortion, price gouging, and reckless endangerment to public health ,and shut these heartless blood-suckers down? [Rhetorical question alert!] Can we say … money … lots of money! … corruption … lots of corruption! … and absolute indifference to human needs and human suffering? We sure can.

I can also say … nationalize the subhuman spawns of sociopaths! We should immediately nationalize our entire monstrous pharmaceutical industry, take back every dime they’ve stolen from us! Then … we should gut-shoot each and every industry executive, past and present. Then … after a while … ask them why in hell we should decide their lives are worth saving.

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Hedge Fund Manager Buys Rights To Critical Drug, Hikes Price By 5000%

Daily Kos * Sun Sep 20, 2015 at 04:05 PM PDT

by Dartagnan

This is enough to make anyone sick.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/business/a-huge-overnight-increase-in-a-drugs-price-raises-protests.html?_r=0

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Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The hedge fund manager responsible for the price increase is named Martin Shkreli. Shkreli has a reputation as some type of wunderkind, having started his own hedge fund company while still in his 20’s. Shkreli has already drawn attention for urging the FDA not to approve drugs made by companies whose stocks Shkreli was shorting.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/legal-filings/entry/us-attorney-investigate-short-seller-martin-shkreli

In July 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called for an investigation of Shkreli and others whom it charged were manipulating the prices of drug company stocks through blog posts intended to spread negative and purportedly misleading information about certain drugs.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/legal-filings/entry/crew-uncovers-another-short-seller-gaming-the-regulatory-system

According to CREW, Mr. Shkreli has acknowledged he has no medical expertise whatsoever. His company stands to increase sales in the magnitude of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars from the price increase, according to the article.

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The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month calling the price increase on Daraprim “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.” An organization representing the directors of state AIDS programs has also been looking into the price increase, according to doctors and patient advocates.

Daraprim, known generically as pyrimethamine, is used mainly to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite infection that can cause serious or even life-threatening problems for babies born to women who become infected during pregnancy, and also for those with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients and certain cancer patients.

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The history of Daraprim provides an interesting case study into everything that is wrong with the U.S. health care system.

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Daraprim, which is also used to treat malaria, was approved by the F.D.A. in 1953 and has long been made by GlaxoSmithKline. Glaxo sold United States marketing rights in 2010 to CorePharma. Last year, Impax Laboratories agreed to buy Core and affiliated companies for $700 million. In August, Impax sold Daraprim to Turing for $55 million, a deal announced the same day Turing said it had raised $90 million from Mr. Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing.

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Shkreli may also be able to prevent generic duplication of the drug by controlling its distribution, a tactic which prevents other companies from getting enough of the drug to test.

Ultimately, the problem really isn’t Mr. Shkreli. He’s just a shark doing what sharks do. The problem is that when vital drug treatments and health care are consigned to the whims of the “free market,” people like Shkreli are equally free to charge whatever they want to vulnerable patients by claiming, as here, that the distribution is small enough to warrant “specialty status” for such drugs:

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Turing’s price increase could bring sales to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year if use remains constant. Medicaid and certain hospitals will be able to get the drug inexpensively under federal rules for discounts and rebates. But private insurers, Medicare and hospitalized patients would have to pay closer to the list price.

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Shkreli claims that the higher cost for the drug is necessary for his new company to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis, a claim which doctors quoted in the Times article call hollow as the side effects for Daraprim are manageable and there is no “clamoring” for a substitute. Interestingly, Shkreli’s is the same type of claim pharmaceutical companies made in response to efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

http://blog.cahealthadvocates.org/2014/05/why-cant-medicare-negotiate-lower-drug-prices-for-part-d/

Toxoplasmosis affects nearly half of the world’s population and is generally not viewed as a serious health problem for most. The people for whom it is a serious problem and life-threatening are those infected with HIV, those diagnosed with AIDS, cancer patients, or who have otherwise compromised immune systems. These are often the people who can least afford to bear ridiculously inflated drug costs imposed solely to line the pockets of hedge fund managers.

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Dr. [Judith] Aberg of Mount Sinai said some hospitals will now find Daraprim too expensive to keep in stock, possibly resulting in treatment delays. She said that Mount Sinai is continuing to use the drug, but each use now requires a special review.

“This seems to be all profit driven for somebody,” she said, “and I just think it’s a very dangerous process.”

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/20/1423248/-Hedge-Fund-Manager-Buys-Rights-To-Critical-Drug-Hikes-Price-By-5000?detail=email

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* * * STORY UPDATE * * *

Sheesh! This was predictable too, I suppose. When the richly-deserved bad publicity over such shameful drug-pricing practices kicked in, the poor little misunderstood CEO says he’s not really all that bad. Lucky for us!

What would we ever do without such noble humanitarians? I just wish the word didn’t remind me of the joke –

If vegetarians eat vegetables … what do humanitarians eat?

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Hedge funder defends $700-per-pill price increase: It’s ‘still under-priced’

Daily Kos * Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 11:40 AM PDT

by Laura Clawson

Under fire for buying the rights to a 62-year-old drug and raising the price from less than $20 all the way to $750, former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli is insisting that he did the right thing because before the drug’s potentially lifesaving treatment for toxoplasmosis was just too cheap, as if somehow he’s doing people a favor by charging more. Shkreli even suggested that the drug is not now overpriced:

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/09/ex-hedge-funder-who-hiked-aids-pill-cost-by-5500-percent-says-drug-still-underpriced/

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“We know, these days, in modern pharmaceuticals, cancer drugs can cost $100,000 or more, whereas these drugs can cost a half of a million dollars,” he explained. “Daraprim is still under-priced relative to its peers.”

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Many of the most expensive drugs, though, are ones that have recently been developed where the pharmaceutical company is recouping the costs of development and testing (while profiting handsomely, of course). A drug that’s been around for more than half a century is usually a different story, at least until greedy hedge funders get involved.

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“This drug was making $5 million in revenue,” he said with a smile. “And I don’t think you can find a drug company on this planet that can make money on $5 million in revenue.”

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Not even when the pill costs $1 to manufacture and is being sold for $13.50 or $18, depending who you listen to? Yes, that’s another of Shkreli’s defenses, coming somewhat after the fact:

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He said that media reports had all overstated the price increase, as from $13.50 to $750. The real original price, he said, was $18 per tablet making it merely a 4000% increase in price, not a 5500% increase.

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That’s not outrageous at all, then! Either way, the drug’s price prior to Shkreli getting his hands on it was already a dramatic price increase after a previous time rights to it changed hands. But when Shkreli says “I don’t think you can find a drug company on this planet that can make money on $5 million in revenue,” what he’s really saying is that he wants to make more profit, not that the profit level on this particular drug was unsustainable for people who aren’t greedy leeches on society. Shkreli has also tried to defend himself by claiming that his company will use the profits to develop alternative treatments for toxoplasmosis … except doctors say they weren’t really looking for an alternative. They’d just like to have this one at a reasonable price.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/21/1423506/-Hedge-funder-defends-700-per-pill-price-increase-It-s-still-under-priced?detail=email

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About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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15 Responses to Your Money or Your Life

  1. There’s a generic version of Daraprim available on line (most likely produced in India) – 30 pills for $15: http://www.fabpharmacy.com/841-generic-daraprim-25mg-30-pills.html

    There are generic versions of most drugs where the patent has run out (older than 20 years). They’re just not available in the US.

    • Thanks for your comment, and for such welcome information! But if you’re stuck in a US hospital … boom … the vampire drugmakers will be there … to help … themselves! to all the traffic will bear. They’re enough to make me renounce non-violence. It wouldn’t change our deranged and corrupt system but it’s tempting anyway. – Linda

  2. This is criminal… or, it should be at least.

    • Robert, So it should damn well be criminal! We’re held up without a gun — robbed and/or left for dead! And this is only one of how many cases of corporate rape, plunder and blackmail? Thanks for your comment, as always. – Linda

  3. sojourner says:

    You beat me to the punch. I am posting this same article in the morning,

    It’s maddening, isn’t it!

    Scum sucking pigs, all!

    • Sorry Sojourner! I knew this was trespassing in your territory, but … this is so beyond outrageous! And that was before Dr. Bramhall told us these pills are available for fifty cents a pop — but not here! Makes me want to hurt people! Hope you’re in a more forgiving mood (towards me at least), and thanks for your comment. – Linda

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