My approach to blog writing is this: get annoyed about something, bash out a blog post in around 30minutes, usually while still in pyjamas, ping off to super Nicki who steers this ship, and then decide it’s best not to go to the gym as intended but proceed to shower and University. It is lovely if Nicki likes the post, even better if a few friends on Facebook do, but I never think anyone other than my good friends and feminist academic colleagues read this. So it was quite a pleasant surprise when so many people shared this letter to Martin Shkreli. It was then quite a shock when Martin emailed me on Monday. Friends, social media works: we did it, we got to him.
At first I thought this was most likely a set up from my brother, until I realised for a man who tried (and failed) to buy a doctorate from the internet before I got my PhD, setting up a fake email address may be beyond his technological capacities (love you Normie!). This may actually be the real Martin. So I replied and we entered into ‘dialogue’ via email (I lost my voice after some dancefloor work/shouting with friends that we-loved-each-other-and-really-should-see-more-of-each-other at a raucous wedding last Saturday which ruled out a phone call).
As you can probably guess Martin did not agree with the complete content of my blog. I suggested he may want to write a reply and post it here. He may be thinking about it, but let’s just say we’ve both now moved on from the dialogue. So for the few friends who texted me asking what happened, and to save my poor voice explaining it over the phone to them, here are my emails below. I haven’t posted Martin’s as he has one of those disclaimer things at the bottom of his email address. I understand this is akin to a teenager getting a Jackie Collins (RIP) book out of the library with all the sex bits being crossed out, but what can I say, I’m scared of litigation. So here you go:
Monday 28th September, 4.19pm:
Many thanks for your email and taking the time to read my blog. What did you make of it?
Monday 28th September, 4.27pm:
Email correspondence would be good (at least for this week as I’ve lost my voice). I’m interested, how will increasing the price increase access? And how much have the FDA costs you cite been? Likewise, I would be happy to clarify any of the points I raised.
Tuesday 29th September, 8.44am:
Thanks again for getting back to me. I found your email most interesting, but I am afraid I remain unconvinced that putting the price up helps patients access treatment.
I may have got the wrong end of the stick here, but from what you’re saying you are justifying the price increase because of enhanced adherence strategy and a boost in investment in the sales and marketing teams of Daraprim. This is what justifies the cost – selling to Doctors rather than boosting R&D?
When did you introduce the co-pay assist program? I think this is an important oversight the media did not note. However putting the price up to $750 is going to have consequences for the insurance premiums of people taking Daraprim and therefore in the long-run their ability to pay.
It seems from what you’re saying, that the increased price is so that you can invest in selling and marketing Daraprim, thus your customers are paying for your marketing strategy. Do let me know if you think I’ve got this wrong.
I also spoke to my colleague who manages the FAC blog and said we’d be in contact. If you would like to post a reply to my letter on the blog you would be very welcome – we want to ensure that the forum promotes open dialogue, so you of course have right of reply.
Tuesday 29th September, 1.00pm:
I get from the tone and the content of your email that we see these issues in very different ways. I appreciate your correspondence all the same but also have more understanding of the pharmaceutical industry than you think I do. Let’s keep in touch.
Martin, if you’re reading this, do please consider posting a blog. I think this is important for two reasons. First, this is an open forum that intends to promote dialogue, it is important that you have the opportunity to reply. Without this I would feel like someone who shouted something at you in the street with all my friends behind me without you having the time to think of a witty comeback. Second, fair play to you for emailing me directly. Lots of people in your position wouldn’t have done so or would have got someone from their press team to do it. You are clearly doing things differently and this could be an opportunity to engage with a wider academic community outside of the natural sciences and pharma. If you decide not to (or you’ve now hired a PR team who decide best you don’t) then I understand, but thanks again for reading.