Martin Shkreli, a man who holds the title “most hated” in the disparate fields of health care and rap, is back to his usual tricks: ratcheting up the price of life-saving medications and generally being vile.
Shkreli set his sights on a drug that fights Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that affects 6 to 7 million people, many of them poor. Last month, Shkreli took control of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, a company that sells benznidazole, a common treatment for Chagas disease. According to The New York Times, Shkreli plans to take advantage of a federal program that awards vouchers to develop drugs that one company can then sell to another for millions. From the Times:
Mr. Shkreli said on a conference call with KaloBios investors last week that if the company won F.D.A. approval for benznidazole, it would have exclusive rights to sell it in the United States for at least five years. He said the price would be similar to that of hepatitis C drugs, which cost $60,000 to nearly $100,000 for a course of treatment.
Right now in Latin America, where Chagas disease is most common, the typical treatment costs $50 to $100. In the U.S., benznidazole is given out free on an experimental basis to the few cases that crop up.
But Shkreli, who made headlines earlier this year after he pulled a similar stunt with Daraprim, another dug to fight a parasitic infection, is more likely to sell the voucher to develop the drug than actually develop it himself, given that there’s a very small market in the U.S., a way to profit off life-saving medications while not actually helping the people who suffer from them.
Here are some of the ways that scientists the Times spoke to described Shkreli’s latest venture: “an abuse of the system” and “pretty devastating.”
But who knows? Maybe this time, he’ll spend the profit he squeezes out other peoples’ devastating illnesses on something good, like a sealed rocket ship that he can climb aboard and shoot into the black abyss of space, never to be heard of again.