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Distraction Tactics

When Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased Daraprim (a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis encephalitis) from Impax Laboratories and hiked the price by 5000 percent (from $13.50 to $750 per pill) overnight, it caused outrage across the US, earning Turing’s Founder, Martin Schkreli, the title of most hated man in America (1).

Since then, Schkreli has remained almost permanently in the media spotlight. He has been arrested on charges of securities fraud, resigned from his position of CEO at Turing Pharmaceuticals, sacked as CEO of KalosBios, and is currently being sued over the artwork used on a Wu Tang Clan album that Schkreli purchased for $2 million. But his actions concerning Daraprim have also prompted US Congress to investigate the “skyrocketing prices of certain prescription drugs” (2). Unsurprisingly, Turing has come under fire, but so too has Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Valeant purchased two heart disease drugs – Isuprel and Nitropress – last year and increased the prices by 525 percent and 212 percent, respectively.

Documents obtained by US Congress Committees have now revealed how executives at both Turing and Valeant deliberately set out to increase drug prices – and then used PR as a smokescreen (3)(4). One document stated, “Turing employed a public relations strategy to try to divert attention to patient assistance programs (PAPs) and research and development (R&D) efforts. Internal communications showed that Turing officials joked about this strategy and did not in fact intend to lower the price of Daraprim.”

Valeant is also accused of trying to divert attention away from its price increases to its patient assistance programs (PAPs), particularly for the drugs it sought to categorize as ‘Orphan Drugs’. But despite the behavior of the two companies, Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffetz blamed the FDA during the congressional hearing for not working fast enough to approve generic drugs, saying the agency was “drowning in a backlog” of applications (5). “I believe that the FDA has failed to meet its statutory responsibilities,” Chaffetz said. “If somebody increases the price of a prescription drug, that’s going to invite more competition but if that competition can’t get approval from the FDA there will be no competition.” JS 

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  1. Z Thomas and T Swiftt, “Who is Martin Shkreli – ‘the most hated man in America’?” (February, 2016).
  2. Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, “Press Conference: Prescription Drug Affordability Act September 10, 2015,”
  3. Congress of the United States, “Documents obtained by Committee from Turing Pharmaceuticals,” (February, 2016).
  4. Congress of the United States, “Documents obtained by Committee from Valeant Pharmaceuticals,” (February, 2016).
  5. Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “Developments in the prescription drug market: oversight,(February, 2016).
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