After Martin Shkreli jacked the price of Daraprim, an anti-parasitic drug used by HIV patients around the world, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet, he quickly became one of the most hated men in the world.
Since then, there has been incredible lash-back. Shkreli attempted damage control, receiving more venom, and eventually cut the drug’s price by 50 percent for US hospitals (still, nearly 30x the cost of what it was before he raised the price). He did not lower the cost for private patients and, so, they are still paying the insane amount.
This provoked students in Australia to create 3.7 grams of Daraprim’s active ingredient for $20, something that would sell between $35,000 and $110,000 at Shkreli’s market cost right now.
This means that one tablet, which Shkreli is selling for $750, can actually be purchased for $2.
The Sydney high school students have been working on the project in an after-school program since the price hike was announced in September of 2015. They are all in agreement that working on something relevent has kept them active.
“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” one of the students, 17-year-old Austin Zhang, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Another student, James Wood, added “The background to this made it seem more important.”
The students have been working on the project with University of Sydney chemist Alice Williamson, through an online program called Open Source Malaria, focused on using publicly available drugs to cure and treat malaria.
After spending 12 months searching for a safer way to synthesize the drug, they were able to successfully create 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine (the active ingredient). It was confirmed in a spectrograph that Williamson calls “one of the most beautiful spectrographs I’ve ever seen.” She says the students synthesized “about $110,000 worth of the drug.”
Though the students have no plan to sell the drug, they want to show the world that Shkreli’s $750 pill can actually be synthesized and bought for $2. They’ve succeeded. If anything, it brings attention to the global pricing of the pill. In most countries around the world, it can be bought for $1 or $2, but in the US, Shkreli’s company has a stranglehold on the distribution due to a loophole called the ‘closed distribution model.’ In order for any other creators of the drug to enter the US open market, they would have to be compared in trials to Shkreli’s product and would end up paying millions of dollars is costs. This busted law is keeping newcomers out and the market, anything but free.