Healthcare always seems to be a top priority in today’s news segments. Anything ranging from changes in healthcare reform to rises in drug costs can make or break your day depending on where you fall on the healthcare spectrum from patient to nurse to physician and even to insurance provider. Recently, a disease known as toxoplasmosis has hit the news with the unveiling of a price splurge resulting from a change in pharmaceutical owner with seemingly moral motives.
But what exactly is toxoplasmosis? Caused by the parasite T. gondii, toxoplasmosis is the resulting disease from the infection that usually shows flu-like symptoms in most people but can have serious complications with compromised immune systems like patients with HIV/AIDS. The parasite is a single-celled organism that can only reproduce in cats. Coming into contact with cat feces or even handling contaminated foods or utensils can increase your risk of infection. In most cases, signs and symptoms may not even show with infection because the body’s immune system will resist the parasite, keeping it in an inactive state. However, with immunodeficiencies, the body’s defenses are weakened and will succumb to its parasitic effects. With the spread of infection, toxoplasmosis can lead to seizures and encephalitis, a very serious brain infection.
Treatment for acute toxoplasmosis usually starts with Daraprim, a pyrimethamine that has been used since the 1950’s to treat malaria. An antibiotic known as sulfadiazine is sometimes prescribed in conjunction with a pyrimethamine to treat the infection. This brings us to our pivotal talking point on the recent news regarding Turing Pharmaceuticals’ recent spike on cost of the Daraprim tablet. According to the New York Times, the cost of Daraprim, an out-of-patent medication, has risen from $13.50 per tablet to $750 per tablet under the direction of hedge-fund manager and new Turing Pharmaceuticals owner Martin Shkreli. His reasons for the sudden 5000% price increase all come down to finances and R & D (research and development). There hasn’t been a significant effort for toxoplasmosis funding in the research and development department to enhance treatment and Turing Pharmaceuticals plans to invest profits made from the price increase directly into R & D. In addition to R & D, Shkreli has mentioned that Daraprim was basically given away at the cost of $13.50, barely making a profit for a pharmaceutical company, which would make it impossible to keep up with its competitors.
This boils down to vital signs versus dollar signs. Dr. Wendy Armstrong, professor of infectious diseases at Emory University, reported that toxoplasmosis treatment wasn’t necessarily something that researchers were clamoring to invest in. So how much research is really necessary if a drug is on the market at an affordable cost that works for the patient and physician? Profits must be made in order for companies to survive, but at what cost? A 5,000% increase seems excessive, but Turing stands by its decision. They have made a commitment to making the drug available to all, even if patients aren’t able to afford the new price per tablet.
Watch CNN’s interview with Mark Shkreli and research toxoplasmosis to see what you think about the decision regarding the price increase. If one thing is right about this whole ordeal, research is definitely necessary to improve the quality of medications and create innovations in healthcare when a change is needed. Toxoplasmosis is a very serious condition for patients PPA is an industry leader in disease research distribution and provides quality biologic specimens and specialty plasma to researchers worldwide. Make sure to check out the How to Participate section for more information regarding our donor qualifications.