If Pharmacists Ran Pharmaceutical Companies


The question of what you get when you cross a hedge fund manager with a pharmaceutical company has no punchline.

Turing Pharma recently bought the rights to Daraprim and promptly raised the drug’s price 5000%, from $13.50 per pill to $750. The Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance would call that price gouging.

Public outcry is at a pitchfork-and-torch level for Turing’s CEO Martin Shkreli. I can see why, but I am not surprised.

The question of what you get when you cross a hedge fund manager with a pharmaceutical company has no punch line. Charging $750 a pill isn't making anyone laugh.

Ever since the first witch doctor accepted a chicken for a healing, there has been profit in health care. That is never going to go away.

But the question is, how much is too much? I'd say that a 5000%increase on an older product might fall on the spectrum.

Remember when tetracycline (TCN) was on the scene? The drug was so old when I started in pharmacy that nobody ever referred to it by its brand name. It was a good drug for its time, but better ones followed.

When my dog was diagnosed with Lyme's disease, the veterinarian wrote a script for TCN. My preceptor from my Drug Fair days, John Panko, RPh, told me to name my price for the month’s supply.

I thought $5 seemed fair, but he told me to change it to $1 because we were, profit-wise, “doubling up.”

TCN disappeared for a decade only to return with a price of $300 for a 10-day supply. That’s a more than 900% increase from 83 cents a capsule.

A raw materials price increase was blamed, but pardon me if I didn't buy that reasoning.

I truly believe that if pharmacists ran pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, things like Daraprim’s price hike would not happen.

In pharmacy school, I took a class called Pharmacy Law and Ethics, but in some business schools, hedge fund managers are taught the 285 Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.

I realize that drug development is incredibly expensive, but Daraprim had nothing to do with that. This instance is pure profit, and taking money over preserving human life is a 7th ring offense as far as I'm concerned.

Daraprim has been around forever, and the acquisition of its patent required little, if any, testing compared with starting a pharmaceutical molecule from scratch.

Daraprim wasn't the first drug to jump astronomically in price, and it most certainly won't be the last. As long as this hedge fund practice is allowed to continue, so will price gouging.

It's time for the FDA to step in and stop this, but I’m not holding my breath.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is not a Ferengi.

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