Daraprim is one of the drugs on the World Health Organization list of Essential Medicines for treating toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is parasitic infection particularly dangerous to people with compromised immune systems (such as HIV patients), pregnant women, and the elderly.
Turing Pharmaceuticals, a US-based biotech company, has the U.S. rights to produce and distribute this life-saving drug solely. Prior to Turing’s acquisition of the said rights, the drug sold for $13.50. After the acquisition, Turing boosted its price by over 5,000% to $750. Driving it out of the reach of not just many Americans but millions of sick people around the world.
Martin Shkreli, a hedge-fund manager, turned pharmaceutical company CEO, played a leading role in Turing’s acquisition of the U.S. rights to producing Daraprim. And its subsequent price hike from $13.50 to $750; attracting widespread condemnation, with some media sources calling him “the most hated man in America.”
If a discovery made in November by high-school aged students from Sydney, Australia is anything to by, Shkreli and Turing days of making a big fortune out of people’s sickness is numbered.
The Sydney Grammar School students claim to have successfully synthesized the exact equivalent of the Daraprim drug but at 0.27% of the cost. The drug they have synthesized costs just $2 per dosage, compared to $750 charged by Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The students with the help of their chemistry teacher and a chemist from the University of Sydney worked together remotely via the website Open Source Malaria. A platform used by researchers in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases using readily available drugs. The drug they collaboratively came up with was tested using a technique called spectroscopy, and the results show the compound, pyrimethamine, is exactly like Turing’s Daraprim.
According to their chemistry teacher, these students started with $37 worth of (4-chlorophenyly) acetonitrile, and with it made 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine. The technique they used in making the drug is different from Turing’s patented technique; a deliberate move to avoid any copyright infringements.
However, if indeed these students have the exact replica of Shkreli and company’s Daraprim. Then they journey and fight to the wide scale productions has just begun. There are numerous regulatory, production, and market forces they must overcome; some of which, Martin Shkreli has started throwing their way.
And never, ever compare your cook game to mine. Highest yield, best purity, most scale. I have the synthesis game on lock.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 1, 2016
You would think Shkreli, working for a big-time pharmaceutical company researching on curing some of the world’s deadliest diseases would be thrilled with these kids discovery. Apparently, these Australian kids development means bad business for them, and it would appear further research outside their organization should be ridiculed and discouraged.