Thursday, August 25, 2016

Your money or your life: Shkreli, Bresch, wheezing and choking children, and the Tyburn Jig

There used to be a time when they publicly hanged highwaymen. These were people who’d stop coaches on the road, flintlock pistols raised, and demand, “Your money or your life.” And they meant it.

When they were brought to justice, it was usually not a pretty picture. They were hanged, but not on a gallows from which a fall would break their necks. Highwaymen in the 18th Century died slowly and in frantic, panicked agony.
When everything was ready, the horses were whipped away, pulling the prisoners off the carts and leaving them suspended. They would only have a few inches of drop at most and thus many of them would writhe in convulsive agony for some moments, their legs paddling the air - “dancing the Tyburn jig” as it was known, until unconsciousness overtook them.
A new breed of highwaymen is abroad in the land today. Two of the most infamous are named Martin Shkreli, and Heather Bresch. I cannot reproduce their smirking photographs because the pictures  you should see are the property of news agencies, but if you take a look at Bresch here, and Shkreli here, it would appear that they were separated at smirk.

They both ride desk chairs instead of horses and their weapons are not pistols but prices. Both have unconscionably jacked up the prices of once-cheap life saving drugs for which there are no readily available substitutes. They’ve made fortunes by threatening and actually putting at risk the lives of innocent children, the elderly, and the physically frail. 

In Shkreli’s cased the drug in question is Daraprim. The magazine Vanity Fair reports:

Dara­prim, is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines because it treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. In that vulnerable population it can lead to seizures, blindness, birth defects in babies of infected mothers, and, in some cases, death.
Shkreli, through a company he controlled, Turing Pharmaceutical, raised the price from $13.50 per Daraprim tablet to $750. Usually, it’s taken for 21 days, a total cost  of $15,750 per patient at the jacked up price. Your money or your life.

Shkreli’s defense has been that medical insurance pays for most of it anyway, and he, a multi-millionaire if not a billionaire, paid $750 for his I-phone, so what’s the big deal if he charges $750 per pill? There are at least three reasons it’s a big deal.

First, not everybody has medical insurance, and so some individuals and families — for whom the $15,000 for a full medical regimen can be close to a year’s take home pay — are forced to flirt with bankruptcy or watch someone they love die needlessly. 

Second, even if medical insurance paid for 100 percent of the price (which it doesn’t) the cost gets passed on to all Americans, via hikes in our insurance premiums and in our taxes. So in effect, we are all being held at pistol point by this thug. 

Third, Shkreli’s  greed-motivated initiative will — and already has — lured others into the pharmaceutical highway robbery business. So he has made the problem he created for the rest of us a growing problem.

Shkreli, who is also under indictment for fraud in a separate case, shows the remorse of a python gorging itself on a pig. The consequence of his misbehavior, he tweets, is that he’s getting more sex.

Martin Shkreli
Verified account
Martin Shkreli Retweeted Vincent
none, getting laid more i guess
Martin Shkreli added,

Vincent @johnvincentsays
@MartinShkreli what changes did you applied to your life after the whole media mess? (serious question)

Meanwhile, a copycat highwayman — well, highwaywoman in this case — got caught pointing her loaded flintlock of a price hike at little children and threatening the equivalent of blowing their heads off.

I’m referring to Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, the company that makes EpiPen.  That'sthe product that saves adults and especially vulnerable little kids from dying while gasping for breath — due to allergic reactions to certain commonplace foods and other substances.

By steadily raising, and then raising again, and then re- and re-raising the price of EpiPen, Bresch finally managed to also raise the ire of parents of those vulnerable children. They took to the Internet, raised hell on social media, and ended up flooding Congress with 100,000 letters of righteous protest. The indignation was palpable. The New York Times reports:
...parents began posting receipts showing how much they were paying for EpiPens. One photo showed a Costco pharmacy receipt from Chandler, Ariz., for $1,698.28 that a parent had paid for three boxes of EpiPens, six pens total. A single mother from New Hampshire had a receipt for $925 for a two-pack of EpiPens.
This may have been a grave embarrassment for Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of Virgina, who happens to be the father of this child-killing thug-ette

It certainly explains why child-endangerer Bresch relented. Well, sort of relented. Mylan has agreed “to expand its coupon and patient assistance programs,” The New York Times reported. So only those parents who who are deemed rich enough to pay full price will have to. At least until Bresch changes her mind again.

And that’s not good enough. Highway robbery is highway robbery and ought to be treated as such. This nation needs a law that would make price gouging of monopoly drugs necessary to save lives — drugs like EpiPen and Daraprim — the vicious felony that it is.

Think about this: if somebody steals your car, he’s liable in some states to serve over eight years in prison. 

Currently, if the same person steals through price hikes your family’s money for an EpiPen or a Daraprim prescription, the only penalty is social pressure.

Yet the cost of the theft to each individual can be the same, or far more, than the loss of a car. 

So this nation needs a law that would make price gougers guilty of a felony, punishable by five years in a maximum security prison, for each person gouged. Remember, these highway robbers don’t gouge just one or two people. They gouge thousands of sick people and their families.

Five years per person gouged, sentences to be served consecutively. Somehow, I think that after the first twenty or thirty years buried alive in prison steel and concrete, Shkreli and Bresch might not be tempted to rob the vulnerable again.

Nor would other drug company executives.

Tell your Senators you want long prison terms for drug price gougers.

Oh, and also tell them you want Joe Manchin forcibly recused by his party from any committee, subcommittee, or matter relating to laws concerning healthcare and most especially pharmaceuticals

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