News outlets and social media platforms alike were flooded with stories on the Darapim price increase. The story broke out on the week of September 21, when Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug, commonly used to treat patients with HIV or AIDS, and then drastically increased the price per tablet from $13.50 to $750.00.
Debates started on social media on the ethical and moral ramifications of this decision. Many criticized the company for what they perceived as a greedy attempt to exploit HIV and AIDS patients whose treatment requires regular administration of the drug.
Memes also surfaced on social media contrasting CEO Martin Shkreli with figures such as Jonas Salk, who refused to patent his polio vaccine, estimated to be worth around billions of dollars, choosing instead to share it freely with the world. A huge backlash followed, with many activists condemning the 5,000% price increase.
In their defense, Turing Pharmaceuticals declared that the price increase was necessary in order for any profit whatsoever to be generated through the sale of the drug. According to them, only 2,000 people in the entire country required the medication on a regular basis.
Critics however argue that the drug has been in circulation for 70 years and that there is no other major competitor in the market. Since Turing Pharmaceuticals is the only manufacturer, many fear that until competitors introduce a new drug to normalize the market, the price will remain unchanged.
However, others point out that such price increases are not as uncommon as many would believe. According to reports using data from Wolter Kluwer’s PriceRx database, a leading source on drug price information, pharmaceutical companies have regularly increased prices for on-demand specialty drugs every year. The report cites an average price increase, on the market, of 16% in 2012, 29% in 2013, 22% in 2014 and 19% for this year, so far.
Giant companies, like Valeant, Mallinckrodt, Mylan and Akorn have topped the list for the most frequent and considerable increases in the cost of their branded drugs. Valeant was also cited for a large increase of 535.7% for the heart medication Isuprel and a 236% increase for Nitropress, a drug to treat high blood pressure.
The darapim price increase was one of the most eye-catching in recent years, but analysts have concluded that this is a common, yet frightening trend among giant pharmaceutical companies, in lack of competition.
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