Martin Shkreli, dubbed as the "most hated man in America" for increasing the price of Daraprim, sparked another outcry after announcing that he plans to raise the price of yet another life-saving drug, The New York Times reported. This time, the Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO is eyeing a drug used to treat Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that can cause lethal heart problems.
"It's caused a lot of angst in the Chagas community," Dr. Sheba Meymandi, director of a Chagas treatment center at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, told The New York Times. "Everyone's in an uproar."
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite "Trypanosoma cruzi" and is transmitted by the "kissing bug." The parasite enters the body and burrows into heart tissue. Known to be prevalent in South America, Chagas has been recently reported in some parts of the U.S.
KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, where Shkreli holds a majority share, announced its plants to buy worldwide rights to a drug called benznidazole, one of the two drugs used to treat Chagas disease. Right now, a two-month treatment of benznidazole costs about $50 to $100, according to Reuters.
Shkreli hopes to jack up benznidazole's price to $60,000 to $100,000 per treatment. Meymandi said the news is "pretty devastating" because "the people with Chagas for the most part are poor," with many of them having no insurance.
A federal program that encourages companies to develop drugs for neglected diseases awards vouchers that can be sold to other companies at a profit. Shkreli said he plans to take advantage of this program by getting an FDA approval for benznidazole, which would give him exclusive rights for at least five years.
However, according to Shkreli's critics, doing this would abuse the system, as he won't be developing a new drug but merely getting the FDA to approve an old drug that is already used in tropical countries.
He has not commented on the issue.
Shkreli's reputation took a beating in September after he raised the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 to a whopping $750. He said he raised the price to fund new research for a new toxoplasmosis drug, which experts say is not needed.
He continues to receive criticism when he announced last month that he will not lower the price of Daraprim after promising to do so but would instead give discounts to hospitals, according to The Guardian.
He addressed his critics with this tweet:
Haters, please tell me about the latest in apicomplexa genetic drift. You are all Protozoa experts equipped to judge and advise me, right?
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) October 24, 2015