Martin Shkreli, also known as the “Pharma Bro,” became one of the world’s most hated men last year when he purchased a life-saving drug and jacked the price up from $13.50 to $750 — per pill. But now, some high school students in Australia have proudly given Pharma Bro the middle finger by synthesizing the active ingredient in the medication for only $2 a pill.
The drug in question is Daraprim: “Daraprim is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines. It’s an anti-parasitic medicine that’s used to treat infections such as toxoplasmosis and malaria, particularly in those with low immunity, such as people with HIV, chemotherapy patients, and pregnant women.”
Shkreli, knowing the drug has no competitors in the U.S., was able to send the price of Daraprim through the roof and say to hell with the people who are just trying to stay alive. However, students at the Sydney Grammar School have been working on synthesizing the drug ever since Shkreli pulled his dick move in September of last year. And this week, they finally succeeded.
“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” said 17-year-old Austin Zhang, one of the students who worked on the project.
“The background to this made it seem more important,” added fellow student James Wood.
The students had to find a new way to make Daraprim’s active ingredient – known as pyrimethamine – because the normal process used in manufacturing was too dangerous.
“We couldn’t use the patented route as it involved dangerous reagents,” said the students’ chemistry teacher, Malcolm Binns.
So instead, the students spent the past year coming up with a new method that was safer. Last week, they finally succeeded and managed to synthesize 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine for just for just $20. In the U.S., this amount of the drug is being sold by Shkreli’s company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, for somewhere between $35,000 and $110,000.
Although the students have created an alternative for a fraction of the price Pharma Douche is charging, it isn’t likely that it will hit the U.S. market thanks to America’s closed distribution model.’ As ScienceAlert.com explains,
That means for a competitor – such as the students’ new drug – to be able to be sold on the US open market, it would have to be compared in trials to Shkreli’s product.
But if Shkreli didn’t allow those comparisons to take place, creators of the new drug would have to fund a whole new clinical trial from scratch – something that can cost millions.
But the students say that their goal was never to compete with Shkreli. They just wanted to show that it could be done and that it could be done for pennies. And surely, proving just what an asshole Shkreli is was one heck of an added perk.
You can read more about the project and the process the student’s used on the Open Source Malaria Consortium.
Featured image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images