When it comes to the cost of prescription pills, the free-market pendulum can swing both ways.
Image via Twitter / @martinshkreli
It seems as if Martin Shkreli, the internet’s villain of choice these days, has met his match. No, not in the form of federal regulations, or even the wrath of Bernie Sanders. Instead, it’s the same free-market ruthlessness that Shkreli himself embodied when his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, made headlines for jacking up the the price of Daraprim, an AIDS- and cancer-fighting drug, by an astonishing 5,000 percent—from $13.50 to $750 for a single dose. Now, thanks to the cutthroat laws of capitalism, Shkreli is reaping what he so infamously sowed, as a rival pharmaceutical firm announced this week that it would begin selling the same basic medicine as Shkreli’s company, but at a cost of just $1 per pill.
Compound drugmaker Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to market pills containing leucovorin and pyrimethamine (the active ingredients in the generic form of Daraprim) in bottles containing 100 capsules, all for just $99, reports the Associated Press. Prescriptions for the medicine will be filled through Imprimis’ website. Speaking with the AP, Imprimis CEO Mark Baum hinted that his company’s dig into Shkreli’s market share is just the beginning, saying, “We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up.”
In fact, as many have noted, while Turing’s case of price inflation may have grabbed headlines and fueled outrage (thanks in no small part to Shkreli’s personal behavior) the practice of jacking up drug prices for profit is, itself, fairly widespread in the pharmaceutical world. In that context, Imprimis’ maneuver could be seen as a natural market reaction against this ongoing trend. Shkreli and Turing may have been the catalyst, but don’t be surprised if this form of compound-drug undercutting of recently price-increased medicine becomes more common in the future.
Shkreli, meanwhile, has pledged that he will walk back Turing’s 5,000 percent price hike for Daraprim. The company, however, has yet to follow through on its CEO’s promise.