Our Rogues Gallery Has a New Entrant

Newtown, CT - September 25, 2015

Our Rogues Gallery has a new entrant, Martin Shkreli, and he's gone straight to the top - Mr. Shkreli, who has somewhat of a checkered past, is the CEO of a company that acquired the rights to manufacture a mostly generic drug that has been around for a long time. The mainstream pharmaceutical companies have been selling these generic lines because the margins are pretty slim. The reason why individuals like Mr. Shkreli have decided to buy the rights to these drugs is that many of the manufacturers actually have a monopoly on the manufacture. That, of course, is a recipe for printing money when you leave your conscience at the front door of the business, provided of course you have a conscience. And it's this recipe that Shkreli and others are exploiting, and for which we are supplying the main ingredient: money. That money is coming from taxpayers because of far greater expenses to Medicaid plans for the increases in previously inexpensive drugs to help patients with HIV/AIDS. It's also coming from taxpayers because of far higher prices for a drug used to treat tuberculosis. And it's coming from individuals who have to make far higher co-pays than they did before the price hikes. In other words, Shkreli and others are fleecing us and, at the same time, and more horrifically, they're putting the lives of patients at risk. Neither of which seems to bother them particularly.

What this means to you - Ultimately, as the prices for these medications increase, other manufacturers should be able to get into the market and offer the same drug at a far lower price point. But that takes time, sometimes years. In the interim, these sorry excuses for human beings contribute to the impoverishment of those who can least afford it and cause harm to patients. It's simply crazy. In the past couple of days, faced with significant negative public relations, these companies have started to back off, and we can thank the New York Times and others for having shed light on these practices. But how much they'll back off and for how long is anyone's guess. For us who believe in the importance of the market to solve many of the problems in health care, this example acts as a stark reminder that this industry can never be left to its own devices, and that regulation, even price controls in some cases, has to be an integral part of the mix. When someone corners a market and uses that unfair market power to extract a usury rent from those who have to buy the product, regulators must step in, because it's just not good enough to pin Shkreli's portrait on our Rogues Gallery. He has to be stopped. As the saying goes, and as voiced in so many words by Pope Francis this week, evil only succeeds when good people stand by and let it happen. We have an obligation to act, to be our brothers' and sisters' keeper, to protect the poor and the sick, and to never let odious individuals like Shkreli get away with widespread theft and second-degree murder.