Considering all the ways drug companies have come up with to screw us out of our money to reward their already rich shareholders, it should not come as a surprise to learn that the CEO of one of those companies says he has a moral obligation to screw us.
I’m not making this up.
If you are in need of an certain antibiotic to treat a bladder infection, you undoubtedly noticed that the price of it quadrupled last month, jumping from $475 a bottle to nearly $2,400 a bottle.
The rest of us might never have known about this robbery, though, if the CEO of the company that makes the antibiotic said, quite proudly: “I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can . . . to sell the product for the highest price.”
This antibiotic, by the way is by no means new. It’s been around since 1953. And it’s an important drug that has saved a lot of lives over those 65 years. The World Health Organization considers the antibiotic so important it put it on its list of essential medicines.
The CEO of the company that makes the drug in question, Nostrum Laboratories, said he decided to jack the price up after a competitor that makes a branded version increased its price182 percent over two years. So, clearly, the only moral thing for Nostrom’s CEO to do was to increase his drug’s price 404 percent—in one month.
Nostrum’s CEO, Nirmal Mulye, said he had simply priced his drug according to “market dynamics,” in the same way an art dealer increases the price of a painting that’s been around awhile. Like the art dealer, Mr. Mulye said, he was “in this business to make money.”
But wait, there’s more. Mr. Mulye went on to praise Martin Shkreli, the drug company CEO who became one of the most vilified people on the planet when he raised the price of a cancer drug from a little more than thirteen bucks a pill to $750 a pill a couple years ago.
Here’s what Mr. Mulye said: “I agree with Martin Shkreli that when he raised the price of his drug he was within his rights because he had to reward his shareholders.”
Having worked for two big for-profit health care companies, I can assure you that that attitude is not limited to the likes of Nirmal Mulye and Martin Shkreli. Those two guys just have no qualms admitting that in our profit-driven health care system, the shareholder is king. Their job as CEO is, first and foremost, to maximize shareholder value. And if that means patients can no longer afford their life-saving meds, well, that’s just too bad, so sad. That’s the way the free market works.