Shkreli’s at it again, plotting to make a windfall off a drug price hike

shkreli chagas drug price hike again martin
NEPA Scene
Martin Shkreli made news in September when his company Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to a drug for toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection, and raised the price from $13.50 to $750 a pill, only to back down when he realized such a move was incredibly unpopular. Earlier this month, Shkreli spent $2 million on RZA’s one-of-a-kind album, and later saying he hasn’t listened to it. Now he’s stoking the world’s hatred again, this time by planning to profit from a drug that treats Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that threatens the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Chagas is transmitted by triatomines, insects that live in mud and straw housing. It can be transferred human to human through organ transplants or blood transfusions, via breastfeeding, and congenitally. As it’s generally found in rural areas and slums in South America, and the millions infected abroad are generally low-income or poor, Chagas is considered a neglected tropical disease. While the disease is not of huge concern here in the United States, 300,000 people here are infected, and the practice of hiking up drug prices to extreme levels is relevant worldwide.

The drug in question, a version of benznidazole, is owned by KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, which an investor group led by Shkreli took control of last month. The drug itself is given free to patients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an experimental basis and sold overseas. It’s currently not approved for sale in the U.S., but Shkreli plans to pursue FDA approval.

If he gets it, according to The New York Times Shkreli told investors the company would have exclusive rights to sell benznidazole in the U.S. for five years. He said he would set the price at levels comparable to hepatitis C drugs, and that’s as much as $100,000 for a course of treatment.  This is compared to current costs of about $50 to $100 for a two month course of benznidazole in Latin America.

The drug has been around since the 1970s. Developed by Roche, the company donated its supply to Lafepe, a Brazilian state government company. Another company, Elea, out of Argentina, also became a supplier in response to a shortage of the drug a few years ago.

There is a federal program designed to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for neglected tropical diseases that provides “priority-review vouchers.” Those vouchers guarantee a fast track to an FDA ruling on a future application for an unrelated drug within six months. A speedy FDA ruling is incredibly valuable in the big pharma arena, and can be sold to other corporate entities for multimillion-dollar windfalls. Perhaps Elea, the Argentine company has the same idea, since it too is planning to apply for FDA approval.


New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Digital Trends Live

Cryptocurrency investor Ian Balina sees a comeback for cryptocurrency in 2019

We chatted with crypto investor Ian Balina on what the future is for cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. He also gave us three things to look for when we are investing our own money.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.