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Thursday 8 October 2015

Daraprim. A 'for-profit' drug in a monopoly industry

The mainstream media were exercised over this drug recently. The drug, Daraprim, has been market for 62 years. It is used for a an illness called toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite in food, and compromises the immune system.

Turing Pharmaceuticals, owned by Martin Shkreli, a venture capitalist, gained control over this drug, and immediately increased the price from $13.50 to $750, a rise of over 5,000%! Natural News stated that the price hike was actually even larger when it said that the drug was priced at just $1 "a few years ago".

The outcry that followed immediately got the attention of leading USA politicians.  Hillary Clinton called the new price 'outrageous', and promised to respond to it with 'a plan', presumably a cunning plan! Another presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, responded by demanding information about the total gross revenues of Daraprim. He was quoted as follows:

"The enormous, overnight price increase for Daraprim is just the latest in a long list of skyrocketing price increases for certain critical medications."

Quite right. The issue with Daraprim is that it is the only drug licenced to treat toxoplasmosis. Turing Pharmaceuticals defended themselves. The previous company, they said, was "just giving the drug away", and that "you only need less than 100 pills so at the end of the day the price per course of treatment to save your life was only $1,000". The added that "these days modern pharmaceutical, cancer drugs, can cost %1,000 or more" and that "Daraprim is still underpriced". And, of course, the extra profit would be used to develop new and better drugs to treat the condition.

If we needed any confirmation that the pharmaceutical industry was about profit rather than patient health, perhaps we need go no further than this story! Such profiteering is not an isolated example. As the New York Times said, before going on to provide other examples of this practice,

     "While most of the attention (on drug price increase) has been on new drugs.... there is also growing concern about huge price increases on older drugs, some of them generic, that have long been mainstays of treatment".

I am left amazed at the outcry. This blog regularly discusses the dangers of conventional medical drugs, and their ineffectiveness. The third major problem with pharmaceutical drugs is their cost. Drug companies have been able to charge what they like for drugs for a very long time now. And politicians have been happy to pay drug companies whatever they ask for (with taxpayer money, of course). Pharmaceuticals are big business, and there are huge profits to be made from them.

This has been the situation for decades. Why should this particular situation attract so much interest?

National health services throughout the world have given conventional, drug-based medicine a virtual monopoly over our health care. And monopolies do over-price their wares. We know this from other spheres of life. The fact is that Daraprim is not the only treatment for toxoplasmosis. It is the only conventional drug that is licensed to treat toxoplasmosis - and that is quite a different matter.

The only way to rid ourselves of a monopoly is to search for other solutions, and as far as this disease is concerned, there are other alternatives, including herbal medicine and homeopathy. We ignore this, and maintain the pharmaceutical monopoly, at our own cost.