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Image Source: ABC News

In 2015, Fund Manager Martin Shkreli made some news when he purchased Daraprim, an anti-parasitic drug that is listed under essential medicines by World Health Organization (WHO). It is used in treating toxoplasmosis, malaria and individuals who have low resistance like people with HIV, cancer patients and women who are pregnant.

From $13.50, Shkreli increased Daraprim’s price to an overwhelming $750 each tablet. A group of high school students from Sydney Grammar School in Australia protested this unreasonable price and to show that Shkreli’s company is overcharging the supposed to be an inexpensive medicine by creating a 3.7g active ingredient of Daraprim for only $20, a price that can range from $35,000 up to $110,000 based from the cost charged by Shkreli.

Each tablet made by the students only cost $2 in contrast to $750 selling price from Shkreli’s company Turing Pharmaceuticals, wherein there’s a 50% deduction for hospitals in the US while private patients pay the full amount of $750. When the price increase was publicized in September last year, the students tried looking for ways on how they can create the active ingredient of Daraprim through their after-school chemistry program.

Austin Zhang, one of the students who took part in the creation of Daraprim told The Sydney Morning Herald, “Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic”. These bright students collaborated with Alice Williamson, a chemist in the University of Sydney through the use of Open Source Malaria, an online research sharing platform that intend to use drugs and medical practices in curing malaria made available to the public.

In creating the active ingredient of Daraprim, which is pyrimethamine, the students begin with 17g of 2,4 chlorophenyl acetonitrite that cost around $36.50 for 100 grams. But there have encountered a conflict, they could not use the raw ingredients involved in the creation of pyrimethamine due to patent issues, so they have to find another way to produce it. For almost 12 months, they were able to create the drug.

The drug passed through a rigid inspection by Williamson with a spectrograph. The result was then submitted to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute NSW Organic Chemistry Symposium last Wednesday. This drug is highly expensive in the US which is only sold around $1 to $2 in some countries simply because the drug is not patented. Turing Pharmaceuticals limited the circulation of the drug created by the students since it will greatly affect his business.

In order for this drug to be sold in the US market, the creators of the drug should fund a clinical trial in comparison to Shkreli’s product. But this trial cost millions and this is the reason why Shkreli has no competition in the US. The main purpose of students in creating the drug is not to sell but simply to show that the drug is not expensive as what Turing Pharmaceuticals is giving to the public and also to motivate other manufacturers to test their creation for the benefit of many.