In a capitalistic society, is there a moral obligation to provide life-saving medication at an affordable cost?

In 1955, Jonas Salk, who owned the patent to the polio vaccine, was asked why he decided not to patent it to make money off of it, he said: “Well, the people, I would say [own the patent]. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

If you asked the same to the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the answer would undoubtedly be: feel free to charge patients whatever price you desire because people who want to live will find a way to pay.

According to USA Today, Turing Pharmaceuticals recently acquired a drug that treats a common parasite that attacks people with weakened immune systems. The company increased the cost of the pill by 5,000%.

Previously, the medication was $13.50 per pill. It is now $750 per pill.The company also has exclusive rights to market the drug – known as Daraprim (pyrimethamine) – as it’s been the only drug to fight this type of parasite since 1953.

So what does Daraprim do? And what happens to you if you don’t take it?

USA Today reports:

  • The drug fights Toxoplasmosis, the second most common food-borne disease
  • People whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS, chemotherapy, HIV or even pregnancy, can be infected easily.
  • Mothers can also pass the toxoplasma parasite to their children during pregnancy.
  • Organ transplant patients can get it through an infected donor.
  • Symptoms can feel flu-like, but the parasite attacks the brain and can lead to blindness or brain damage.
  • According to the CDC, the parasite comes from eating under-cooked meat, cooking with contaminated knives and boards, drinking unclean water, and contact with infected cat feces.
  • Up to 3 billion people in the world are infected with the parasite.
  • About 60 million people in the United States may carry the parasite, according to the CDC.

Daraprim is new to the club, but it isn’t the only life-saving drug with a skyrocketing price tag.

“New cancer drugs now routinely cost more than $100,000 a year. A new brand-name hepatitis drug, Sovaldi, costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment,” USA Today reports.

Treatment for serious diseases - ones that make a difference between whether people can see or don’t see – should be readily available.

Now, due to the price, hospitals are considering “alternative therapies that may not have the same efficacy,” Dr. Judith Aberg, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a news release for the American Pharmacists' Association.

This is because patients even with insurance could have trouble affording the medication. Most insurance companies put high-priced drugs in the “specialty” category, which means the bulk of the cost is paid by the patient. “Patients whose insurance plans require them to pay 20% of the cost — a common practice — would shell out $150 a pill,” USA Today reports.

Turing Pharmaceuticals claims the money it makes from the sales will be used to further research treatments for toxoplasmosis. They also plan on investing in marketing and educational tools to make people more aware of the disease.

Do you buy into that? Sound off below! 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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