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Sydney schoolboys use ethical approach

| April 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

A group of schoolboys in Sydney, Australia, have taken action against former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, Martin Shkreli.

In September 2016, Shkreli raised the price of an essential drug from US$13.50 to US$750 per tablet. This is an increase of 5 000%. The world reacted angrily. Sydney Grammar School (SGS) students did not take legal action. Rather, they manufactured the same drug, Daraprim – an anti-parasitic medicine used to treat infections such as toxoplasmosis, which affects HIV-positive people, and those infected with malaria – for just US$20 a dose.

The boys worked with their own teacher and chemist Alice Williamson from the University of Sydney’s Open Source Malaria Consortium. What made the experiment extrachallenging was that the team could not use the already patented route, as it involves hazardous reagents.

Williamson has tested the purity of the 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine produced by the boys in a spectrograph at the university. The sample is worth about US$110 000, based on the price mark-up of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, Turing Pharmaceuticals controls the distribution and sale of Daraprim in the US, and the comparison of any cheaper replication would need the company’s permission.

Should Turing disallow this move, a new trial would have to take place. Shkreli is now the subject of an unrelated securities fraud probe conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

Category: Autumn 2017

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