You may have seen the news headline Ex-Hedge Funder Raises Price Of Aids Drug From $13.50 To $750 Per Pill last week. For my readers who haven’t, a quick recap.
Martin Shkreli, 32, founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the rights to Daraprim in August for $55 million. Daraprim is the standard treatment for the blood infection toxoplasmosis and is a drug many patients have to take daily for a year or more.
Toxoplasmosis is a dangerous infection that can be fatal when it affects babies born to mothers who have become infected, or other adults whose immune systems are critically compromised as with HIV/AIDS, or cancer patients.
Martin Shrekli, in his own defence, stated: “We will make money off Daraprim, put the profit into alternative research, and develop a modern medicine that can cure toxoplasmosis quickly.”
Historically investors and the general public were far removed from the impact of investments around them. Creating production, jobs and having a decent return on investment satisfied all onlookers, and even when a few persons raised concerns, they were smothered by the general populace who didn’t see it as their concern.
In this way, there was a buffer between the elite capitalist in charge of the gears of production and social responsibility.
One of my colleagues perfectly summarized the thinking of the majority in prior years stating: “In this guy’s [hedge fund manager’s] defence this is the West! You have the right to sell any good and service at any price you want. It is the price we pay for democracy, advancement, autonomy, competition, variety.
“You have three options: 1. find a cheaper supplier; 2. don’t use his product; or 3. manufacture your own. All who’re crying extortion could carry their **** [colourful words used] because if they owned the company they would do the same thing. This a business; not a church; not a charity.”
Fortunately or unfortunately, this isn’t the world we currently live in. Investors are more prone to thinking about the impact of their investments whether because of marketing/branding reasons, or because of sheer benevolence.
After much pressure, Martin has stated that he will rethink the 5,000 per cent price increase.
This brings me to the present day where millennials in particular and the wider population are more conscious of the effects of their investments and usually wish to invest for the greater good. For example many technology companies have at their core the desire to leave a positive impact on the world.
Facebook seeks to make us all more connected, which in my opinion promotes greater understanding and peace.
Google’s motto is Don’t Be Evil, and within that they believe you can make money without doing evil by making information more accessible.
Wikileaks’ slogan is We Open Governments, with the aim of making governments more transparent.
Everyone of these technology entities believe they are changing the world for the better, and they have each received investment on that basis.
Whether you agree in free market principles, checks and balances in the form of regulation or any other philosophy, ensure you bear in mind the greater good.
(Craig Harewood is the investment director at Ourinterest Inc., an investment company that trades
on global markets and from time to time assists small business and boutique investors.)