Although Martin Shkreli made the headlines last year, he actually didn’t appear in the news for good reasons; many at that time had said that he was pretty greedy as he jacked up the price of an anti-parasitic drug from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. Well, just as we would expect, that silly move really caused ripples as the man came under intense pressure from the medical world and the media.
Some high school students in Australia have now created 3.7 grams of Daraprim in their lab for $20, a quantity that Shkreli’s company will sell for over $35,000 in the United States. Truing Pharmaceutical sells the medicine at a 50% discount to US hospitals but has refused to slash the price for private patients.
Daraprim is one of the essential medicines that the world health organization recommends as it is very good in treating infections likes toxoplasmosis and malaria. This medicine is used for patients with low immunity, and that’s why it’s a wanted commodity as pregnant women, chemotherapy patients, and HIV patients can’t do without them.
Ever since September last year, students of Sydney Grammar School have been working real hard to synthesize the active ingredients of Darapim as part of an after-school chemistry project. According to the students, the reason they were putting in their best into the project was mainly because they were working on “real-world problems.”
The students worked with Alice Williamson, a top chemist at the University of Sydney through an online research sharing platform called “Open Source Malaria” which is used to treat malaria with publicly available drugs and medical techniques. The boys then went on to make pyrimethamine, which is the active ingredient in Daraprim. The interesting thing about the project is that the boys manufactured the active ingredient using raw ingredients since the patented method would be very dangerous for their chemistry lab.
After 12 months of continuously working on the medicine, the boys managed to produce a pure pyrimethamine, and the purity was confirmed by Alice Williamson before presenting their results at the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.
Well, let’s just hope many others will create products that will challenge that of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Since the company now controls the distribution and sales of Daraprim in the United States, it will take a trial of their product and that of the competitor to allow the sales of a competitor’s Daraprim in the US.