Big Pharma Wants Us To Think Martin Shkreli Is A Rogue CEO. He Isn’t.

Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli

Three millennia ago in ancient Greece, a plant called autumn crocus was used to treat gout. A pill form of the active ingredient, colchicine, has been used to treat the illness in the United States since the 19th century.

But six years ago, a clinical trial showed the drug’s safety and efficacy and URL Pharma was granted the exclusive marketing rights for a drug that had previously sold for 9 cents a tablet. The price shot up to $4.85 — a more than 5,000 percent increase.

Sound familiar?

This week, a roiling controversy was ignited after Turing Pharmaceuticals chief executive Martin Shkreli hiked the price for his drug Daraprim by a mind-boggling 4,000 percent. The major pharmaceutical and biotech industry groups have portrayed Shkreli’s actions as totally repugnant and the work of just one company, acting alone, with a flippant young chief executive who doesn’t reflect the broader values, practices, or trends of other companies.

But it’s not, as the colchicine case shows. Here’s why: