Aussie students have come up with a reproduced version of the anti-malaria drug worth US$2 (AU$2.3) while the original version of the medicine made available by former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli cost US$750 (AU$1010).
Earlier, the drug to fight malaria was worth US$13.50 (AU$18.17) but the price rose overnight to US$750 (AU$1010) per tablet, making it difficult to afford for the general public. As a solution to the problem, Year 11 schoolboys from Sydney Grammar reproduced the same anti-malaria drug and made it available at an affordable cost for the public with a new name, Daraprim.
Who supported the Aussie students in recreating Daraprim?
The students tried and tested the medicine on the parasitic infection in their school laboratory with complete support from the University of Sydney as well as members of the Open Source Malaria consortium. Daraprim has commonly been given to patients diagnosed with HIV. Hence, the drug falls under the list of most essential drugs as formed by the World Health Organization.
Shkreli began to be considered as the “most hated man in the world” after he increased the cost of medicines to amounts so high that they became unaffordable to the general public to buy even one tablet for treatment. The move of the Aussie students relating to the development of a new form of the same medicine has now made him a public villain, mentioned by The Guardian.
Sydney University’s postdoctoral teaching fellow Alice Williamson said that she could not resist knowing the story of Skhreli, who made the same medicine available at such a high rate per tablet and kept on raising the cost despite knowing the seriousness of the disease it was needed for. Turing Pharmaceuticals owned by Shkreli introduced Daraprim in 2015 and has increased the price to an unaffordable level overnight.
“I couldn’t get this story out of my head. It just seemed so unfair, especially since the drug is so cheap to make and had been sold so cheaply for so long,” Williamson said, referring to the story that motivated the fellow to support the Aussie students.
“I said ‘Why don’t we get students to make Daraprim in the lab’, because to me the route looked pretty simple. I thought if we could show that students could make it in the lab with no real training, we could really show how ridiculous this price hike was and that there was no way it could be justified.”