Friday, December 18, 2015


In The New York Times, Andrew Pollack argues that the arrest of Martin Shkreli may have actually made life better for other pharmaceutical price gougers:
... in some ways, Mr. Shkreli, chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has taken the heat off other drug companies.

Most drug companies do not increase prices fiftyfold overnight, as Mr. Shkreli did.

But they often increase prices 10 percent or more a year, far faster than inflation. And those 10 percent increases -- on drugs for common diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer -- have a far bigger impact on health care spending than the 5,000 percent increase on Turing’s drug, Daraprim, which might be used by about 2,000 people a year facing possible brain damage from a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis.

“Because he played the part so well of the evil Wall Street hedge fund guy, Martin really drew attention away from the more serious issues with much bigger dollar impacts,” said John Rother, chief executive of the National Coalition on Health Care, a Washington organization concerned with drug prices.....

The arrest and indictment will buttress the efforts of more established pharmaceutical companies to distance themselves from the upstart Mr. Shkreli....

“He is not us,” Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive of Merck and chairman of the pharmaceutical industry’s main trade group, said this month at the Forbes Healthcare Summit this month. Now, pharmaceutical executives can look at the federal indictment and say that Mr. Shkreli is an aberration, a rotten apple.
It would be nice to think that Shkreli's arrest will be followed by more scrutiny of the industry's rapacious pricing. But remember that Shkreli was arrested for securities-law violations, not drug-price gouging (which is perfectly legal in America). It's quite likely that, as a pharmaceutical executive, he'll be treated the way extreme Republicans are treated in the political world: He'll be deemed an outlier whose downfall is welcome but who certainly can't be treated as representative.

Shkreliism is just normal drug-company behavior taking to its logical extreme, just as Trumpism is modern conservatism taken to its logical extreme. But when Shkreli and Trump are one from the scene, we'll probably pretend they came out of nowhere and represented nothing other than themselves. That's what we usually do, isn't it?


The New York Crank said...

My feeling is, every little bit helps. The arrogant, smirking Shkrelli looked like a scared, nervous Skrelli when they perp-walked him, his hands cuffed behind his back, into a waiting car for booking. It sends a short message to the drug company guy. Will it stop them? Probably not. Will it slow them down for a while? Maybe.

In this effed-up remnant of a deteriorating democracy, "maybe" may well be the best answer we can hope of, at least for now..

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Never Ben Better said...

At least we little peons have had the satisfaction of seeing this jerk do the perp walk, smirkless. That's got to be worth something.

Let's hope his lawyers gouge him for all they can get.