Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Health

Australian Teens Develop Antimalarial Drug For $2 a Dose; It Normally Costs $35,000

ABC News

A handful of secondary school students in Sydney, Australia, used their school laboratory to create a key ingredient in an antimalarial drug called Daraprim.

The students, in their 11th year of school, cooked up the drug for as little as $2 a dose. In the US, it sells for anywhere between $35,000 USD (AUS$47,332) and $110,000 USD (AUS$148,755), so that’s a pretty massive saving.

The drug in question is called Daraprim and it’s an anti-parasitic medicine used by malaria sufferers and those with weak immune systems including HIV patients and pregnant women. The World Health Organization lists the drug as an essential medicine.

Malaria is a very serious disease and in some instances can cause death. It is a mosquito born virus that still occurs in over 100 countries worldwide, impacting over 200 million people. The disease causes a huge toll on human health and imposes a heavy social and economic burden in developing countries.

The good news is malaria is treatable, but the cost of the drug in the US is astronomical.

Late last year, Turing Pharmaceutics, the company that owns the market rights to the drug, increased the price per dose by more than 5,000%, causing worldwide backlash. And for good reason — companies should be called out for unjustly profiteering from the suffering of humans.

The school students involved in the project, led by the University of Sydney’s Open Source Malaria Consortium, said that the "background made it seem more important," and that ‘working on a real-world problem definitely made them more enthusiastic’ and gave ‘more focus to the work."

One student expertly explains in this clip that the team ‘wanted to make a point about the nature of the pharmaceutical industry and the way that drugs are patented and sold for absurdly high prices when they should be being used to treat life-threatening illnesses.’

School student.jpgA school student holding about $150,000 worth of the drug if sold in the US market. Photo: Nic Walker (smh.com.au, Nov 30 2016)

To make the drug the sudents worked through a number of steps with their chemistry teacher. Their teacher recently tested its purity and it passed with flying colours. In total, the boys produced 3.7 grams of the drug using ingredients costing as little as US$20 (AUS$27).

Way to go, boys!