Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Illuminating Our Sick Drug Business

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Illuminating Our Sick Drug Business

Article excerpt

Sometimes the road to hell is paved with bad intentions. A company adopts a business model so twisted that justice must come clanking down on its executives and bankrollers. Justice is now being served on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International. Evil this blatant is headed for the full Hollywood treatment. Valeant preys on sick people by acquiring essential drugs and then multiplying their price for a fast profit. Example: Upon buying the maker of Cuprimine, a 53-year-old drug that treats a rare genetic disorder, the Canadian company hiked its price 5,787 percent. Example: After obtaining the rights to two heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, Valeant jacked up their prices by 525 percent and 212 percent, respectively.

Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, called Valeant a "sewer" at the conglomerate's recent annual meeting. If the burning fires of hell are not available, a sewer will do.

Get this: Valeant charges Americans almost 100 times more for flucytosine than it does Britons. Used to treat cryptococcal meningitis, flucytosine costs $2,000 a day in the United States, versus $22 a day in Britain.

How could this be? Ask your Congress.

From the Medicare drug benefit on up, it has written laws to enrich drug companies at the expense of American consumers and taxpayers. Valeant's going down not because it was greedy but because it was insanely greedy.

Calling Valeant a "drug company" is problematic because it's not much into researching and developing new medications. "Bet on management, not on science," its outgoing CEO, J. Michael Pearson, was fond of saying.

It takes some doing to provoke the U.S. Senate to hold a hearing on a drug company's pricing. In this, Valeant (and previously Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals) succeeded.

Under the harsh lights, Pearson conceded that his company made "mistakes. …

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