How Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli Lost the Internet -- and Millions

If you hike up the price of a life-saving drug, prepare to suffer the wrath of the web.

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Practically overnight, a drug that’s been used for more 60 years to treat parasitic infections became more than 5,000 percent more expensive. Somehow, people were not chill about this.

Here’s the gist. In August, a company by the name of Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the drug Daraprim. It’s most commonly prescribed as an antimalarial, but is also used for other kinds of parasitic infections. It might be especially known for treating toxoplasmosis in HIV patients whose immune systems have been compromised. The World Health Organization has it on its List of Essential Medicines. At one point, Daraprim cost about $1 per tablet.

But why make a single thin buck when you can charge people to save their very lives? Turing Pharmaceuticals, run by former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, decided to raise the price from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. Uninsured patients who take Daraprim just saw their drug regimens shoot up by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Turing received complaints from many organizations — most notably from the Infectious Diseases Society of America — but he ignored them. Shkreli justified the price hike by claiming Daraprim was a rarely used drug, and that Turing would be using the profits to build up research into other drugs that can better treat toxoplasmosis. “This is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world,” he told The New York Times. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”

Perhaps that’s true. A quick glance at Shkreli’s internet presence doesn’t seem to back up those heart-warming intentions.

My personal favorite:

Today, the internet decided to use its penchant for collective outrage for something good, and focused its scorn on Shkreli.

Perhaps most importantly, he found himself an enemy of a few people who have a bit of clout in the business world. Enter Hillary Clinton:

And after that tweet went out, biotechnology stocks all over took an abrupt dip, falling 4.7 percent. Whether you agree with her politics or not, Hillary Clinton’s Twitter account, now and forever, is a force to be reckoned with.

Today’s world — in which the internet carries news across the world at the speed of light — does not suffer such nakedly evil shit. And it’s especially difficult to get away with evil shit when all you’re capable of doing in the public eye is acting like a money-driven twerp. Let’s forget about the come-at-me-bro Eminem lyrics and pics of real-life Entourage poses. Just watch this interview he did today on CNBC to defend his company’s actions.

Shkreli doesn’t come off as a genuine, sympathetic human being. He’s a smug yutz you want to punch in the face. Why do you need to profit-grab from a drug that has been on the market since the 1950s? Because you know only what it’s like to be healthy. One day, if he’s lucky, Shkreli will be old enough to get deathly ill. And perhaps some young hotshot running the pharma company that could save his life will say to him, and to his loved ones: If you want to live, it will now cost 50 times what you were expecting. Or maybe that won’t happen, because Shkreli, in his only socially redeeming action, will invite meaningful regulations to keep such a thing from ever happening again.

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