Martin Shkreli, that’s who.
In response to Mona’s article from last week, I want to continue the trend of ethics in the pharmaceutical industry. Decisions in the pharma industry often edge on the side of ethical dilemma because drugs have the possibility of either helping or harming people. And Mona was spot on, some big pharma companies have done some pretty sketchy stuff in the past. They gave tons of crazy drugs to little kids, and even gave some to the parents too so that they wouldn’t object to testing on the kids. OK so that’s not exactly what happened, but I’m sure the media spun in into something like that. It’s so easy for the media to go crazy with pharmaceuticals because the general public is highly uneducated about how our drug system actually works. And the media has definitely had fun with creating headlines for Martin Shkreli.
If you don’t know about Martin Shkreli, please watch this Vice doc where he drinks wine and plays chess with a Vice reporter, all the while telling her how terrible she is at chess. Shkreli is best known for the price gouging scandal that he’s currently wrapped up in. His company bought the best drug for treating patients with AIDS and then hiked the price up 5,000% to $750 a pill. Rough times for everyone trying to gain access to the pill right? Sort of. Most people would look at this and immediately say that Shkreli is immoral, that he might as well be poisoning small children because he’s killing people that have AIDS. In reality, as Shkreli will readily explain to you if you ever get the chance to interview him, nothing that he is doing is actually having an impact on the bigger system or on the lives of people with AIDS. The reason is because the burden of that 5,000% increase in price falls on big corporations and insurance companies who have to foot the bill. He also says that he will personally give the drug away for free to anyone who desperately needs it. Seems pretty ethical, yeah?
The point is that, and Mona makes this point very well, the pharma industry, just like many other big industries, is not simple when it comes to executing totally ethical behavior. My view is that I want to see medicine advance to the point where we can cure all of the most deadly diseases that we currently have. If that means a little sketchy testing, then that’s ok with me. But I’m not one of the guinea pigs am I? Ok cool, yeah go ahead.