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Australian Teens Produce Version of Martin Shkreli’s Controversially Price-Hiked Drug Daraprim in Their School’s Lab

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Daraprim
School teacher Dr Malcolm Binns holds a small jar of the compound of an anti-parasitic medicine used to treat malaria, called Daraprim, which was partly made by his students in a lab at Sydney Grammar School in Sydney, Australia December 2, 2016. (David Gray/Reuters)

That will be a bitter pill for Martin Shkreli to swallow.

The so-called “pharm bro” and one-time CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals became the target of a social media and publicity furor in 2015, when the company inflated the price of Daraprim—a drug used to treat cancer and HIV patients felled by a deadly parasitic infection—by about 4,000 percent from $13.50 to $750 per pill. (Shkreli’s since been charged with securities fraud and is currently awaiting trial.)

Daraprim
Chemistry students James Wood, Brandon Lee, and Patrick Ngo (L-R) watch Christopher Lai place a glass container into a holder as they prepare to make the compound found in an anti-parasitic medicine used to treat malaria, called Daraprim, at Sydney Grammar School in Sydney, Australia December 2, 2016. (David Gray/Reuters)

 

In the interim, a group of upstart high school chemistry students from Australia heard about the Shkreli/Daraprim story and were inspired to act. The group of 11 students, all 16- and 17-year-olds, created their own pyrimethamine, the active ingredient in Daraprim, in Sydney Grammar School’s laboratory. The drug, which treats a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis, was made on a small scale—about 3.7  grams—for $20 total (that’s about $2 per pill).

After the public outcry, Turing Pharmaceuticals eventually lowered the cost of the anti-parasitic drug by 50 percent for hospitals, but the costs have remained the same for pharmacies.

Daraprim is primarily used to treat patients with compromised immune systems, particularly HIV-positive pregnant women and patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Learn how the students did it in the video below.

 

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