When the big bad wolf of the Big Pharma industry Martin Shkreli was hauled off in handcuffs this week for securities fraud, many spectators said he was just getting a taste of his own medicine. Shrekli raised public fury earlier this year when his company Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Daraprim, a drug used to treat infections in AIDS and malaria patients, and jacked up the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill—more than a 50-fold increase. 

Shkreli's blatant exploitation of vulnerable sick patients is terrible, says medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, professor at the New York University Langone Medical Center and host of the "Everyday Ethics" podcast. But it's not unusual.

"He is the evil twerp incarnate. There is no doubt he will retire the 'I am a jerk in healthcare' award of the year," said Caplan. 

"But tomorrow morning, if he was in prison or disappeared, we still have this huge problem of high prices in the pharmaceutical industry, and locking up Shkreli isn't going to solve that," he said. "Nor is it going to get us to pay attention because I worry we think, 'ahh, we get the bad demon, now we're okay.'"

The problem is systematic, Caplan explains. Congress is legally prohibited from negotiating the price of drugs on behalf of the American public, which is why the healthcare bills of American consumers—more so than any other nation—end up lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.

"That's why we pay three times the price of Britain, six times the price of Greece," Caplan said. "It's just ridiculous. We're getting stiffed because we won't actually use the market and use the purchasing power of the government to get a better price."

To hear more from medical ethicist Arthur Caplan, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.