Meanwhile, a $1 alternative to Daraprim is withheld from Americans pending FDA approval.
Around this time last year, Martin Shkreli had found fame for all the wrong reasons. The young venture capitalist dubbed the “Pharma Bro” famously hiked the price of Daraprim, a drug used to battle HIV. As a controlling member of the pharma company making the drug, Shkreli hiked the price $13.75 a pill to $750. But now, a couple of ingenious teens may have kicked the legs out from Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company Shkreli ran.
Using their high school lab, a research-sharing tool called Open Source Malaria and $20 of materials, Australian student Milan Leonard and his team, supervised by researcher Alice Williamson, managed to recreate 3.7 grams of Pryimethamine, the active ingredient in Daraprim. The “street” value of that creation would range from $35,000 to $110,000 in the current market.
Milan and his team approached the project out of ideological conviction. He said to ABC.net, "It makes sense that if you're putting billions of dollars into research for a drug like this, you should be able to reap some profit, but to do something like this … it's just not just."
Giving a sense of where Milan is coming from, this graphic shows the nose-bleeding escalation of the drug over time, when logic dictates that the price should have fallen as development costs are further amortized:
Remarkably, the same pill of Daraprim sells for just $1 in Australia. So while this exercise serves as a testament to ingenuity, it also further reveals the injustices prevalent in the American health care system.
Says their supervisor, Alice Williamson:
"The original route that we got, so the original recipe if you like to make this molecule, was from a patent that was referenced on Wikipedia. Now of course we checked to see if it looked reasonable … but the route that was up actually had one step that involved a really dangerous chemical. The boys had to navigate a difficult step and do this in a different way, and they've managed to do that, and they've managed to do that in their high school laboratory."
Meanwhile, a generic alternative to Daraprim exists in the United States that would match Australia’s cost of $1 per pill but currently is being withheld pending FDA approval.