Remember when Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, hogged the headlines and became the "bad boy pharma" for raising a price of a decades-old anti-parasitic drug by as much as 5,000%? It looks like he is about to do a round 2 once he gets hold of another drug for a parasitic infection.
Shreli's investors group has just recently taken control of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, which currently owns a benznidazole version. This drug is used to treat Chagas disease (Trypanosomiasis).
According to World Health Organization (WHO), Chagas disease affects at least 6 million people around the world, although most of them are found in Latin America, where the disease is endemic. In the United States, around 300,000 people are diagnosed each year.
Caused by a blood-sucking bug that carries the parasite, it can be life threatening with some developing heart and neurological problems. Some of the most common symptoms include chest pain, fever, swelling of the abdomen, breathing difficulty, enlargement of the lymph glands, and purplish swelling of one of the eyelids.
The drug, based on the disease profile in WHO, has a 100% cure rate especially when the patient is treated during the early stages of the disease. However, in the United States, the drug does not have an FDA approval, although it has been distributed to the affected areas for free in acute cases.
Shkreli is now planning to fast-track the approval of such drug so they can be entitled to have exclusive rights to it within the next five years. By then, the drug could be selling at least $60,000 per treatment, a far cry from $50 to $100 plan given to Latin America over the course of two months.
As early as now, some health experts have already criticized the plan, saying that he is trying to exploit a federal program designed for development of drugs for neglected diseases.