When the CEO of Turin Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, grinned duplicitously at the camera during an interview after he and his company astronomically raised the price of Daraprim, which is a drug used to treat Toxoplasma gondii infections, more than 5,000 fold, there was a sharp and immediate backlash. “Pharma Bro,” however, isn’t the only CEO, and Turing isn’t the only company, that has taken advantage of people’s pharmaceutical needs to reap gigantic profits. Mylan, for example, raised the price of EpiPens 480 percent over the last eight years. Citing what she called the “deep frustration” of consumers, Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch disingenously said that the company would provide a 50-percent discount on EpiPens, which is small comfort because the price of EpiPens is still 240 percent higher than in 2008. That means that the price of EpiPens is still 20 times greater than it would be had it followed the rate of inflation in the U.S. from 2008 – 2016.
The backlash from this unfettered greed has come not only from Congress and other regulatory entities. The world of Facebook and the Twitterverse have both proven to be powerful voices against these companies. In one case, Brooklyn-based actress Mellini Kantayya created a petition to Congress regarding the EpiPen price gouging that has received more than 140,000 signatures since August 25, 2016. Do you remember Martin Shkreli? Even he spoke out against MyLan! As one tweeter pointed out, “When Martin Shkreli calls a Pharma company out, you know it screwed up.”
Some companies, however, such as Mallinckrodt, slide under the radar because they keep a low profile and also because their drugs, even as life-saving as they are, are not well-known. Mallinckrodt produces Acthar Gel, which is used to treat multiple sclerosis. In the 1990s, the drug cost about $50 per use. How high is the cost now? It’s $34,000. That price is more than 6,000 times greater than the price would be considering the long-term rate of inflation.
Even companies that produce insulin have gouged their patients in a never-ending quest to line the pockets of their shareholders. The chickens, however, are coming home to roost. The swift and sure reaction of the internet has had a demonstrable effect, and shareholders are quickly learning that putting their needs before the medical needs of patients in the United States, many of whom pay more than anyone else in the world for their drugs, is going to mean smaller dividends. As one might expect, the only thing these companies and shareholders understand is, “You will make less money doing this than if you don’t.” The bloggers who are on the side of the patients hope the backlash costs the shareholders plenty so that they put pressure on their cash cow companies to stop gouging the public.