The drug with a 5,000% price hike: Everything you need to know about the markup heard around the world

Martin Shkreli is the 32-year-old CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. After his company acquired an antiparasite medication developed 62 years ago, he increased the price from approximately $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight.

Here are eight things to know about the medication and CEO that took global headlines this week.

1. The drug is Daraprim. It is used to treat toxoplasmosis, which affects people with weakened immune systems, as occurs with AIDs and during chemotherapy. Turing Pharmaceuticals bought U.S. rights for the drug for $55 million in August from Impax Laboratories. The FDA approved the drug in 1953 and it was long developed by GlaxoSmithKline, which sold it to CorePharma in 2010 and before CorePharma was acquired by Impax last year.

2. Turing Pharmaceuticals is a privately held, startup biopharmaceutical company with offices in New York City. Mr. Shkreli founded the company. He received his bachelor's degree in finance from The City University of New York and has spent his career in the hedge fund industry after hitting Wall Street at age 17.

3. He entered the pharma industry in 2011 with a company called Retrophin, which looked for older, more obscure drugs that it could acquire and turn into orphan drugs with higher prices. The board of Retrophin fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago and, in a lawsuit, claimed he arranged to pay off displeased investors in his hedge fund via consulting agreements with Retrophin. Mr. Shkreli founded Turing shortly after he was fired and brought many employees and investors from his former company with him. "After being kicked out of my own company, I've built a bigger and better one," he said in an interview, according to The New York Times.

4. The New York Times first reported the story about Daraprim on Sunday, leaving Mr. Shkreli to fiercely defend his business decision early this week. He said that, at $750 per pill, Daraprim is still at the low end of what orphan drugs cost. He said the drug was so rarely used that the price increase would have a small impact on the healthcare system. He also said the price hike was driven by the need for research and development for a better version of Daraprim. He told CNBC the profits would let Turing "spend all of that upside on these patients who sorely need a new drug, in my opinion."

5. Some physicians, like oncologist Zeke Emanuel, MD, disagreed with the argument that the price hike would fund research for a better drug. "We don't need another drug in this space, and there's no indication that this guy has any idea how to do drug research and development. So I don't think this is a well-justified argument at all. It's simply exploiting a niche drug," he told NBC News.

6. When asked if he would change the price of the drug on Tuesday on CNBC in light of the national attention the matter received, Mr. Shkreli simply said, "No."

He reversed that position within hours. Late Tuesday, he told TV news networks Turing will cut the $750 price, but he did not specify by how much. "I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people," he told NBC News.

7. The development earned attention from Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who unveiled a plan on Tuesday to combat this type of "outrageous" drug pricing with a $250 cap on out-of-pocket payments for prescription medications. "Pharmaceutical companies just bet on the fact that desperate people will find some way to pay for [these drugs]," Ms. Clinton said while speaking in Iowa Tuesday.  

Another presidential candidate had words for Mr. Shrekli. "He looks like a spoiled brat to me," said Donald Trump. "He's a hedge fund guy. I thought it was disgusting what he did."

8. Mr. Shkreli has said that Daraprim will be free or as low as a dollar for anyone who can't afford it, but there are differing firsthand accounts about access to the drug. Some hospitals say they now have trouble getting it, such as the public Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. A professor of infectious diseases told the New York Times Grady has not had access to the drug for a few months. Yet the medical director of the toxoplasmosis center at University of Chicago told the Times that Turing was responsive and "jumped every time" she called. The chief of infectious disease at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City said the system is continuing use of Daraprim, but each use now requires a special review given its price tag.

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