Australian secondary school students have outflanked pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli by reproducing the drug he price-hiked in the US.
Martin Shkreli was dubbed the “most hated man in America” after hiking the price of Daraprim in the US by 5,000%.
And now grammar school pupils, working with researchers from the University of Sydney, have illustrated how little the drug costs to make.
Daraprim is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines and is used to treat malaria as well as people with HIV.
It is also considered an effective anti-parasitic treatment for toxoplasmosis, which can be a dangerous disease for pregnant women.
It is still cheap in many countries, but in the US the price rocketed in 2015 when hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli acquired the marketing rights for his company Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The price increased overnight from £10.70 to nearly £600 a pill – though an outcry reportedly resulted in it being reduced by half for hospitals.
The Sydney students – aged 16 and 17 – set to work creating pyrimethamine, the active ingredient for Daraprim.
Pupil James Wood said the group started off with less than £16 of the drug, and in one reaction produced thousands of pounds worth.
“We really just hope this makes a point about the nature of the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
One of the research chemists helping them, Alice Williamson, said the students shared the “outrage of the general public”.
Associate Professor Matthew Todd added: “Daraprim may be quickly and simply made, bringing into question the need for such a high price for this important medicine.”
Mr Shkreli was called “Pharma Bro” by the US media following the Daraprim price rise, and in December last year he was accused of running his investment funds and companies like a Ponzi scheme.
He has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges and is on bail ahead of going on trial.
Mr Shkreli has since stepped down from Turing and was fired from another company, KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Since his arrest, his stock-trading account, which was worth $45m, has plummeted in value to $5m, because of investment losses.