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Health

How to beat ‘the most hated man on the internet’


Have you seen the story about "the most hated man on the internet"? There’s this guy called Martin Shkreli and he whacked up the price of a vital HIV treatment by 5,000%.

Cue Twitter rage.

But we don’t like to be just angry about things, we like to do things about it. So here’s the good news - we have a solution.

Let’s come back to the problem for a second. Shkreli owns a pharmaceutical company and bought the rights to a vital drug used to treat AIDS patients called Daraprim. He then put up the price of the drug from $13.50 to $750 a pill. 

Anti-biotics Image: Flickr: Sparky

Now this is perfectly legal because, in theory, the market should be able to correct this. Another pharmaceutical company could take advantage of this price hike by developing a similar drug and selling it for cheaper. We call that competition. So why hasn’t this happened?

Well for a start, when a pharmaceutical company produces a new drug they get a monopoly on it for 20 years. That’s right - that means no competition at all for twenty years. So they can quite literally charge what they like.

But this wasn’t actually the case for Daraprim. Its 20 year period had expired. So the question still remains, why hasn’t anyone tried to sell it cheaper yet?

The answer is to do with incentives. It costs a lot to invest in researching and developing new drugs. If there aren’t many people that need a drug or if the people that need them don’t have money, then there’s not much incentive to create it. This is especially true if somebody else has already created something similar and has captured the whole market.

In a nutshell, this is what happened with Daraprim. It was created, built up a monopoly over the course of 20 years and now there’s no incentive left for anyone to compete against it.

So now another question emerges - why are we relying on a system that needs people to make a profit to create the vital medicines that people need?

Well, the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinks that we shouldn’t for much longer. They set up a Working Group to look into an alternative system and they’ve come up with a package of reforms to fix things. Here’s how we can do it:

Introduce alternative incentives to producing new medicines, such as cash prizes, and reduce the use of 20 year patent monopolies​​

Prioritise health research according to need rather than profit by having WHO member states decide which areas are to be incentivised

Establish a pooled fund for research and development financed by countries contributing 0.01% of GDP to ensure the R&D burden is shared

Like the sound of this? Good. So do Youth Stop AIDS, who are lobbying to make these proposed reforms a reality. In March 2016, there’s going to be a huge WHO meeting that will take a look at this proposal and we want to make sure decision-makers know that we want them to happen.You can go to TAKE ACTION below to tell the UK government to put health before profit by voting to reform the system for developing medicines. 


This article was contributed by Bobby Dean, Public Relations Senior Co-ordinator at Restless Development.