Aussie Science Students Outwit Big Pharma CEO

Ask the internet, and the most hated man in the world may well be Martin Shkreli. The pharmaceutical company owner became an international caricature for explosive greed and boundless hubris after he increased the price of a single tablet of Daraprim from about 13 bucks to about $750.

The ‘net rejoiced when the guy seemed to get his comeuppance. Sure, he was still wealthy, but at least there was some retribution for folks to crow about on Reddit and Facebook. But the world doesn’t seem to be finished with its payback.

The headlines were abuzz last week with news that a group of pharmaceutical researchers had managed to recreate the key ingredient in Daraprim … for about 20 bucks. Not bad … for a bunch of Australian school kids.

The group of underage scientists from Sydney say they successfully recreated the drug that is currently a go-to choice for both malaria and AIDs patients. According to reports, the 17yo whiz kids managed to synthesize the active ingredient, pyrimethamine, in their high school science lab. Yes, you read that right. A bunch of kids created a head-to-head competitor for one of the most price-gouged product in recent memory.

Then, just to add a very Aussie bit to the whole deal, one of the boys told the BBC that “it wasn’t that hard, really” … and the internet laughed and laughed.
The kids used their creation to highlight the price disparity in medications around the world. The same amount of the drug — 3.7 grams — they made for $20 would retail in the U.S. for upwards of $110,000. Whereas, in Oz and the UK, the drug goes for about $1.50 per pill.

And the kids weren’t mincing words when they announced their intentions. One, James Wood, told the BBC, “It seems totally unjustified and ethically wrong… It’s a life-saving drug and so many people can’t afford it.”

Shkreli argued differently when he acquired Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company with the rights to the drug, which was originally manufactured as far back as the 1950s. At the time of the 5,000 percent increase, Shkreli said the drug deserved the jacked up price because it was “highly specialized.”

After the kind of outcry that the words “massive public” were invented for, Turing lowered the price of the drug. Later, Shkreli was cuffed, accused of securities fraud … and, once again, the internet rejoiced.

Jay Sekulow is the Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice.