Science and Selflessness
There’s a lot of negativity in the news and media today.
Our instantaneous access to a practically infinite source of knowledge and information also means that everybody knows everybody’s business, or at least they have the opportunity to find out about it. The more we know, the more judgment we pass, and the cycle continues, often in a building avalanche of negativity.
This year especially, we have seen more negativity than most of us are probably used to, with a hate-filled election season and a surge in the visibility and expressivity of a large amount of very unhappy people— which can be a fair and therapeutic act when not tinged with racism and bias.
Over the past year and a half, however, few people have been more criticized across the media than Martin Shkreli, the 33-year-old “pharma bro” who notoriously raised the price of the drug Daraprim, used by people suffering from HIV/AIDS, 5555% over night.
Yet from all the negativity Shkreli spouts, there now comes something good.
The Most Hated Man
Martin Shkreli became a household name around September 2015 when, as founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of a drug commonly used by people suffering from malaria or HIV/AIDS from $13.50 to $750.
This was not Shkreli’s first time drastically hiking up the price of a drug, which he had previously been criticized for in 2014. This time, however, the public at large was outraged, and Shkreli’s decision was condemned by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. The crude business move was especially harmful because Turing Pharmaceuticals exclusively owned the drug, Daraprim, and no generic version existed on the market for patients to turn to instead.
Before long, Shkreli was hailed as “the most hated man in America.”
In December 2015, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI on securities fraud charges. His trial is pending, but he has since stepped down as CEO of Turing.
The good news that came out of Shkreli’s selfishness was widespread attention to these kinds of tricks pulled by CEOs, especially within the pharmaceuticals industry.
Although no generic version of Daraprim is available on the market, people were inspired to start their own trials to begin to recreate it. This week, a group of high school students in Sydney were able to recreate the active ingredient in Daraprim at a price of only $2 a dose thanks to the small scale of the endeavor. It only cost them $20 to recreate it.
One of the boys, Milan Leonard, said, “After all of this time spent working and chemistry being such a high and low, after all the lows, after all the downs, being able to make this drug, it was pure bliss.”
As the news of the students’ accomplishment made its rounds, Shkreli himself posted to his YouTube channel to congratulate them on their work, saying that they’re “proof that the 21st century economy will solve problems of human suffering through science and technology.”
But his kind words didn’t last for long…