Disgraced ex-pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli is now behind bars, facing a seven-year prison sentence for securities fraud. Yet the drug-price hike that initially thrust him into the public spotlight—and infamy—hasn’t budged, according to a sobering report by .
The outlet points out that the retail price for Daraprim (pyrimethamine) is still $750 a pill, up more than 5,000 percent from its previous price of $13.50 per pill.
Drug prices are “easy to raise and harder to lower, particularly if there’s no competition,” Nicholson Price of University of Michigan Law School told .
Back in 2015, Shkreli’s former pharmaceutical company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to and dramatically raised the price of Daraprim. It’s an off-patent, decades old drug that treats relatively rare parasitic infections, namely toxoplasmosis, which largely strikes babies and patients with HIV/AIDS. It costs pennies to make and generates little profit. Only a few thousand patients need it each year. And there was no competition at the time Turing bought the rights.
Shkreli saw an opportunity. Virtually overnight, hospitals and patients saw their bills skyrocket.
The move was widely derided and heaped piles of scorn on Shkreli. Congressional committees summoned him to Washington to scold and publicly shame him and Turing. Other pharmaceutical companies took great efforts to distance themselves, and some even tried to come up with affordable alternatives for Daraprim.
Still, despite the fanfare and furor, little changed for Daraprim. Shkreli stepped down from Turing, which renamed itself Vyera Pharmaceuticals. And Shkreli ultimately went to jail in an entirely unrelated case on securities fraud, which prosecutors described as a Ponzi-like scheme involving two hedge funds Shkreli previously managed and another of his pharmaceutical companies, Retrophin.
In 2017, Medicaid programs paid an average of $35,556.48 per prescription of Daraprim, according to a analysis. Vyera, like other pharmaceutical companies, has set up patient assistance programs, coupons, and state rebates to lessen the blow. But in the end, insurance companies and governments are still facing the greater costs, which can lead to higher premiums and burdened budgets.