Wooing the Most Hated Man in the World

sport2-800px“We need to talk,” Darcy told me.

“About what?”

“About you know who,” she said.

Darcy is my dysfunctional buddy Stan’s ex-flame and current sister-in-law.

“Can we meet at the Pickled Pig?” she asked.

Knowing the area’s sketchy reputation, I asked if I needed a bullet-proof vest.  No, she said, the only thing dangerous about the location these days were the prices.

“Could we meet at Applebees instead?” I suggested.

“Never heard of it,” she snapped.

“Then you are buying.” I said.

“If that’s what it takes.”

So we agreed to meet in half an hour. That was an hour ago.

While I waited, I marveled at what the oodles of tax dollars had done for my old neighborhood. Everything was upscale. The hotel that once boarded winos, now hosted wine connoisseurs and the Salvation Army Store was gone, replaced by a shop that sold the same stuff for forty times the markup.

The only thing vaguely familiar about the place was an old mini-van wearily trolling for an available spot in the crowded parking lot.  I didn’t recognize the van but the way the driver shrieked at her children brought back fond memories..

A spot finally opened up but as the van slowly wheezed towards it, a shiny red Porsche snarled and pounced. It went air-borne over a speed bump,  fish-tailed around the van and snatched the spot.

Darcy had arrived.

“Gosh,” I said when she sat down, “you almost lost your parking place.” It went right over her head. 

“What do you think of my new car?” she asked.

“It handles well,” I said.  She didn’t get that either.

“I paid cash for it.”

“How did you swing that?”

“Two words,” she said.

I waited for the words.

“Martin Shkreli.”

“Whoa,” I said, recognizing the name, “That’s the hedge fund manager who bought an old established drug and jacked the price from $13 to $750 a pill.  If I recall, the drug was used to fight rare infection in infants and AIDS patients. ”

“Bingo!” she said, “that’s my guy.”

“And you recruited him?”

Darcy is an executive recruiter who specializes in jerks.

“Not quite yet,“ she said, fanning herself with the menu. “I know a guy who knows a guy, who knows him and that’s all it took to land a huge retainer.”

“My God, he has got to be the most hated man in the world.”

“You can’t buy that kind of name recognition,” she said.

“He almost brought down the entire pharmaceutical industry.  Who would hire him?”

She picked up her phone, swiped at the screen and poked at a few icons.  “Let’s see, I have twenty desperate emails, thirteen hysterical text messages and a voice mail box full of drool from Washington DC lobbying firms…” she said,  “and that’s just since we sat down.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Remember how they talked about rational pricing in college economics?”

I said, I did.

“Well, there is nothing rational about Pharmaceutical pricing.   They set the price at whatever they want and use the regulatory system to keep it that way.  It is why you can’t order you prescriptions from Canada.   The industry knows this.  The insurance companies know this. Politicians know this.  The only ones who didn’t know this was the public.  Now after Shkeli, the public is catching on and Congress is howling for regulation.”

“But how does hiring him make sense?”

She looked at me again in disbelief.  

“Wealth,” she said, “exists at the intersection of greed and fear.  All kinds of industries are greedy – but they don’t have fear.”

I still didn’t understand where she was going.

“Let’s just say a smart lobbying firm could use Shkreli to instill fear in other industries with irrational pricing structures… Imagine the panic!  Imagine what they would pay to call off the media hounds and keep the regulatory wolves at bay?”

“It’s a shake-down,” I said.

“It’s politics.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I focused on deciphering the menu.   After a while, I asked, “So what did you want to talk about?”

“Nothing,” she said, “Stan cleared it up – and oh, by the way, you’re picking up the check.”

“You said you would.”

“No, I didn’t.”

Author: Almost Iowa


19 thoughts on “Wooing the Most Hated Man in the World”

  1. I won’t even start detailing the ways I’ve been hosed by Obama’s affordable healthcare. Let’s just say my affordability has cost me an additional $10k over two years.

    1. A more proper title for the law would have been The Affordable For Some Care Act.

      Exclusions and the lack of portability were a huge problem and those things were properly addressed. The spiraling cost of healthcare was a larger problem and were not addressed at all.

  2. When I had my cataracts removed and new lenses implanted, I was prescribed a certain kind of eye drop to use for a month before surgery, and well after. For a month’s supply, the cost was $500. My Medicare drug coverage paid not one dollar. Medicare informed me the drops were not judged necessary. The surgeon operating on my eyes said, “Oh, yes, they are.” So, in addition to my monthly Part D premium, I had the privilege of paying for my drugs, too.

    The drug company did offer a discount card that would reduce my cost substantially. The pharmacy was very sorry, but they couldn’t accept that discount card, because the government doesn’t allow Medicare patients to make use of the discount cards. Wut?

    My pharmacist said, very quietly and with a few sidelong glances to be sure he wasn’t being overheard, that the government and the manufacturer had cut some kind of deal. What that would be I can’t imagine, but it certainly has nothing to do with providing coverage for people paying insurance premiums.

    One final note, just because. The drops I needed came in individual vials. I was to open a vial in the morning, put the drops in my eye, and throw away the vial, which still had enough in it to take care of evening and the next morning. When I talked with the surgeon’s assistant, she said, “Oh, phooey. Open a vial, and use what’s in it until it’s gone. It won’t hurt you, if you don’t let it sit around for more than a day or two. So, I managed to extend a month’s supply to cover two months.

    Why would the company say, “Use just a couple of drops, throw the rest away, and open a new vial”? I think it’s as obvious as that red Porsche.

    1. “The pharmacy was very sorry, but they couldn’t accept that discount card, because the government doesn’t allow Medicare patients to make use of the discount cards. Wut?”

      Since you were paying the full cost, you should have looked around and said, “I don’t see no Medicare patients around here, do you?

      “My pharmacist said, very quietly and with a few sidelong glances to be sure he wasn’t being overheard, that the government and the manufacturer had cut some kind of deal.”

      I remember quite distinctly that Congress passed a bill explicitly forbidding Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare patients. This was at the same time that they were caterwauling about reducing government spending.

      I worked for government for three decades and always considered it to be a puzzle palace.

  3. She actually didn’t say she would pick up the check. I just entered the “donut hole” on Part D Medicare. I don’t get the logic. I paid so much out of pocket and now the price goes up and I have to pay more. WTF. This is Karma since I used to work for a drug company.

    1. You noticed that about Darcy? The only time she is clear is when she wants something. 🙂

      When I read about things like the donut hole, I suddenly realize why the “Affordable Care Act” weighs in at 1,000 pages.

      1. A good morning message from the government is 32 pages including footnotes and required legal language. Example: Good (not that there is anything wrong with bad. In fact, it is against the law to disparage, harass, profile, or otherwise imply bad is not as good as good. This is a summary statement. the full statement is found under footnote 2 below. If you need help reading or interpreting footnote 2 an ombudsman will be appointed once you declare the need by calling the 800 number listed in the appendix of the greeting. The appendix can be found on iii ii in the back of the supplementary handout attached to this greeting )

  4. Is it just me that’s wishing the minivan had backed into her? Maybe she can cast him in a new line of commercials. “I don’t always sell beer, but when I do, it’s $50 a bottle” I dunno. The guy deserves to be hated. I was listening to a senator defending the practice by saying “they have to pay for research” The research was done decades ago. They were making money at the old price.

    1. I totally agree. It is completely outrageous and I don’t buy the “it’s for research” argument. If it was “for research” how come the Canadians and EU are not paying what we pay?

      On the other hand, I was listening to a fellow retired civil servant complain about the high cost of drugs. I asked him if he reviewed where the Minnesota State Board of Investment had its money. It is nice to complain about the Pharmaceutical industry, it is also nice to see their high rate of return showing up in your pension check.

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