When reports emerged that a life-saving HIV drug Daraprim went from $13.50 per tablet to an exorbitant $750 overnight, the bulk of the blame landed squarely on the founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical, the company that purchased the drug. Much like the price of Daraprim, 32-year-old Martin Shkreli went from being a regular citizen to one of the most reviled people in the country overnight.
Criticism abounded from all corners of the country, and it didn't help that Shkreli seemed to relish his new role as villain. After sitting through a Congressional hearing about drug price hikes at which he repeatedly pleaded the Fifth, he taunted Congress members on Twitter afterwards, calling them "imbeciles." Shkreli purchased the sole copy of a Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million, then embarked on a feud with its most prominent rapper, Ghostface Killah. In the wake of the price hike backlash, Shkreli said he would lower Daraprim's price, but never did.
But Pharma Bro, as he's known in some circles, isn't having the last laugh, after all. A group of high school students in Sydney, Australia, recently successfully recreated Daraprim's key ingredient for a mere $20, a fraction of the price Turing sells it for.
The Sydney Grammar School students, all 17, said they embarked on the year-long experiment to recreate the drug after hearing what Shkreli had done. James Wood, one of the students involved in the reproduction of this ingredient, told BBC of Daraprim's price hike:
It seems totally unjustified and ethically wrong. It's a life-saving drug and so many people can't afford it.
Many people on social media cheered the students' success, though Shkreli himself seemed to feign indifference, noting that drug prices also account for labor and equipment costs (although that still doesn't explain Daraprim's 5,000 percent price hike.)
A research chemist at University of Sydney, Dr. Alice Williamson, lauded the students' work.
"They've transformed starter material that's worth pennies into something that has a real monetary value in the States," she told the BBC. "If you can obtain it cheaply in schools, then there's no excuse for charging that much money for a drug. Especially from people that really need it and probably can't afford to pay for it."
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