Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Martin Shkreli is a shrkunk. Clearly he is an extortionist price-gouger when he raises the price of Daraprim, which is the only effective toxoplasmosis drug, from $13.50 to $750. They’re calling it a niche drug, and saying that toxoplasmosis is a rare disease. That’s wrong. What he’s really doing is soiling his own nest.

When pregnant women are told never to touch a cat litter box or garden where cats do their business, it is because otherwise they might catch the toxo worm. It goes to the brain of the developing fetus and makes cysts there that will destroy the child.

When researchers discovered a parasite that would infect rats and make them like the smell of cat pee enough to draw them into danger, that was toxo.

When I was doing education for the Multnomah County Animal Control program, I attended a workshop where I had a chance to visit with my equivalent from Seattle. She said that her daughter, who was about ten, had been complaining that a shadow was crossing her vision. Taken to the doc, she was diagnosed with a toxo worm cruising around in the fluid of her eyeball.

toxo inhabiting a retina

Toxoplasmosis is NOT rare, NOT just infecting a few people, but rather a common part of the environment that is usually suppressed by a vigorous immune system — IF you have such an advantage. Pregnant women, old folks, people on HIV drugs (NOT just gay men) or cancer chemo, people who have had organ transplants, people under unusual stress of others kinds, all need this drug. It is also a malaria drug. Malaria kills many more people than ebola or even HIV.

Daraprim is NOT an orphan drug. It has been used for more than sixty years. No one complained about losing money on it before. I smell a rat and it’s a big fat bush rat.

bush rat

It suddenly came to this sheltered little twit that the US government was paying out a lot of money for drugs in Africa: ebola, malaria, HIV, cholera. So he wanted to get in the exploitation line. What was left for the defiant little hedge-fund worm was parasites. (One shouldn’t just mock people one doesn’t like, but this twitchy fellow needs to work on his image.) The suggestion of a program that would subsidize elimination of more African parasites was made not long ago. USA or maybe the Gates Foundation. There will be a LOT of drug sales. Martin Shkreli is the anti-Jimmy Carter, seeking to profit off something that might otherwise be as admirable as Carter’s elimination of guinea worm.

  • Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii that results in serious disease, primarily in immunocompromised patients, patients with multiorgan involvement, and neonates with congenital infection
  • The clinical presentation varies depending on the route of transmission, the immune status of the patient, the stage of infection, and the specific organ(s) or body system(s) involved; these factors are important in establishing the diagnosis
  • Diagnosis of acute T. gondii infection during pregnancy is particularly important because of the risks to the newborn secondary to congenital infection. Pregnant women with newly acquired infection who are seronegative should receive treatment to help avoid transmission to the fetus and congenital infection. If the child is seropositive at birth or in early infancy, treatment should be initiated to prevent symptomatic infection or limit sequelae
  • Immunocompromised patients, such as patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or transplant recipients, require education on prevention of infection and possibly prophylactic treatment based on immune status and results of serologic testing; for example, prophylaxis is indicated in HIV-positive patients with a CD4 count <100 nbsp="">
  • Treatment with pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, and leucovorin can result in improvement in immunocompromised patients with acute or reactivated infection and in patients with congenital infection
Go to the link for more info. A little fewer than a fourth of the women in the US have toxo encysted in their flesh. It will do no harm so long as the woman’s immune system is handling it or unless she becomes pregnant. The most common route of infection is undercooked meat. I presume that includes sushi.


The anonymous author on Wikipedia says, Pyrimethamine (trade name Daraprim) is a medication used for protozoal infections. It is commonly used as an antimalarial drug (for both treatment and prevention of malaria), and to treat Toxoplasma gondii infections, particularly when combined with the sulfonamide antibiotic sulfadiazine when treating HIV-positive individuals.
It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system.”

“The Nobel Prize-winning American scientist Gertrude Elion developed the drug at Burroughs-Wellcome (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) to combat malaria. Daraprim has been available since 1953, meaning the patent for Pyrimethamine has expired. In the United States the market for this product is quite small so no generic manufacturer has emerged. In 2010 GlaxoSmithKline sold the marketing rights for Daraprim to CorePharma and in 2015 the rights were bought by Turing Pharmaceuticals.”

Martin Shkreli is like that guy who tried to copyright the tune of “Happy Birthday” so he could prevent everyone from singing it unless they paid him money. I hope that the backlash will end up nationalizing his pharmaceutical company. It should at least trigger a lot of regulations.

Who does he think he is?

Turing Pharmaceuticals, which is a company that Shkreli invented, will probably not manufacture this drug. He has no lab nor machinery. It’s all paper. His next swindle will be to sell it to a proper drug company, now that he has triggered the media to make a big fuss over it. Free publicity! I think these transactions should be carefully investigated.

Here’s the next step: “In 2011, researchers discovered that pyrimethamine can increase ß-hexosaminidase activity, thus potentially slowing down the progression of late-onset Tay–Sachs disease. It is being evaluated in clinical trials as a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”

In the United States, as of 2015, with the acquisition of U.S. marketing of Daraprim tablets by Turing Pharmaceuticals, Daraprim has become a single-source and specialty pharmacy item, and the cost of Daraprim has increased. The cost of a monthly course for a person on 75 mg dose rose to about $75,000/month, from $13/tablet to $833/tablet, or $750 per tablet per a New York Times report from September 2015. Outpatients can no longer obtain Daraprim from their community pharmacy, but only through a single dispensing pharmacy, Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, and institutions can no longer order from their general wholesaler, but have to set up an account with the Daraprim Direct program. The price increase has been fiercely criticised by physician groups such as HIV Medicine Associates and Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In India, multiple combinations of generic pyrimethamine are available for a price ranging from U.S. $0.05–$0.10 each (3–7 rupees). In the UK, the same drug is available from GSK at a cost of U.S. $20 (£13) for 30 tablets (approx. $0.66 each).

I suspect that this value gradient will cause people to use whatever resources they can to get what they need. I mean, I buy books on the Internet from many countries. We are setting up a system that goes around all safeguards.

This statement from is quite explicit.

Meanwhile, Turing has already committed some of its new cash, this week paying Impax Laboratories ($IPXL) $55 million for the U.S. rights to Daraprim, an FDA-approved treatment for the parasitic disease toxoplasmosis. Turing says it plans to build out a pipeline of therapies for the infection, which the CDC cites as the second leading cause of death by foodborne illness.

Shkreli’s tenure at Retrophin came to an end in October when his board ousted him amid accusations of stock impropriety and concerns about his occasionally brash Twitter persona. But he managed to take three Retrophin assets with him on the way to founding Turing, picking up a hypertension drug his new company believes could treat autism, an intranasal formulation of oxytocin and a ketamine spray in development for depression. Moving forward, Turing will operate much like Retrophin, looking “to buy dollar bills for 50 cents,” as Shkreli told Forbes in February.

Oxytocin and ketamine. Hmmmm.

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