aussie teens replicate martin shkreli’s $750 hiv drug for $2

Shkreli, the abominable pharma-bro who hiked the price of a live-saving HIV drug more than 4,000%, is unimpressed at the Sydney students who cooked up a replica in their high school lab.

by Hannah Ongley
01 December 2016, 4:45pm

Sociopathic price-gouger Martin Shkreli is denying that he has just been severely owned by a bunch of high school students. Shkreli became widely and deservedly known as the most hated man in America when he hiked the price of an essential HIV drug up from $13.50 to $750 overnight. As he somehow becomes more and more repulsive — using $2 million of his profits to buy the only copy of a Wu-Tang album, which he eventually leaked to celebrate his homeboy Donald Trump winning the U.S. Presidential Election — word of how much he sucks has spread all the way down to Australia. At Sydney Grammar school, a group of teens has just cooked up a replica of the much-discussed drug for $2 a pop. 

"The background to this made it seem more important," 17-year-old James Wood, one of the boys involved in the experiment, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic," said another of the schoolboys, 17-year-old Austin Zhang. The students created the drug under the supervision of University of Sydney chemist Dr. Alice Williamson, who called the project a "great pilot program" and now wants to travel around to schools which don't have equally fancy facilities. The University is even raising money for a souped-up RV to use as a lab for this exact purpose, as if the story didn't resemble a utopian remake of Breaking Bad already. 

As the Herald notes, Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used to treat low immunity in patients with HIV. It can also help save the lives of chemotherapy patients and pregnant women. The drug is listed on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines, despite a single dose now costing more than some people's monthly rent. However the boys found an innovative alternative. From 17 grams of the raw material 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile, which you can buy online at $36.50 for 100 grams, they created 3.7 grams of generic Daraprim — which would cost around $110,000 in the United States.

Unfortunately, the cheaper version of the drug won't be available to U.S. patients. "While the drug is out of patent, [Shkreli's] Turing Pharmaceuticals controls its distribution and sale through a loophole called the 'closed distribution model'," Associate Professor Todd told the Herald. "To take the drug to market as a generic, you need to compare it to Turing's product. If Turing won't allow the comparisons to take place, you'd need to fund a whole new trial." Australians, however, can buy a 25mg dose for less than $10. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Photo via Flickr

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