Healthcare is a right: Statement on pharmaceuticals price-gouging

The La Riva-Puryear presidential campaign condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous price-gouging of the pharmaceutical industry. Right now, public outrage is growing over the sudden mammoth increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug, Daraprim, that is used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug was purchased by Turing Pharmaceuticals in August, and the price was dramatically increased from $13.50 a pill to $750.  The actual production cost is under $1 per pill.

Daraprim is used to treat AIDS and cancer patients and others with compromised immune systems who are particularly vulnerable to infection. Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, defended the price increase saying that the old companies who owned the drug were “practically giving it away almost,” and he needs to make a profit. “We know, these days, in modern pharmaceuticals, cancer drugs can cost $100,000 or more, whereas these drugs can cost a half of a million dollars,” he explained. “Daraprim is still under-priced relative to its peers.”

Shkreli is a despicable excuse for a human being. And the outrage generated by his blatant profiteering has now led Shkreli to rescind the price increase. But in defending the price increase, he expressed fundamental truths about capitalism—that profit is paramount over all other considerations and that medicine is a commodity. 

Further, the phenomenon of pharmaceutical price-gouging is not limited to Daraprim. There are new drugs, like Sovaldi and Harvoni, used to cure Hepatitis C, which cost around $100,000 for a course of treatment. Albuterol, the oldest asthma drug, which literally allows asthma patients to breathe, used to cost $15, but now costs anywhere from $50-$100 per inhaler, ever since it was re-patented. 

Profit-based healthcare means that some people cannot afford to buy medications, and some will die from readily treatable illnesses as a direct result. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control estimate some 3,300 people die each year from asthma, often those who have skipped or skimped on their medications like Albuterol. The capitalist pharmaceutical companies have blood on their hands. 

Mass outrage expressed in social media and reflected in the press forced Shkreli to rescind the price increase. Public anger is growing against the profit-gouging of the United States medical system, whether it is the so-called “healthcare” insurance companies or the pharmaceuticals or hospitals that charge exorbitant prices for treating people.

We call for the creation of a free, public health care system. Healthcare should be a Constitutional right; it is essential for life and should not be run for profit.