Shkreli hiked the price of a life saving drug from $13 per tablet to $750 per tablet
The so-called “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli has been banned “for life from participating in the pharmaceutical industry in any capacity” by a federal judge. He will also be forced to pay a $64.6m disgorgement to states that brought an antitrust lawsuit against him, according to Law & Crime.
Shkreli is no stranger to controversy, but his latest trouble started in January 2020, after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against him accusing him of using his monopoly control of the drug Daraprim to gouge its price.
The drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, which can be fatal, especially in people with compromised immune systems.
When Shkreli’s company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the drug in 2015, the price jumped from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet.
At the time, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association issued a joint letter to the company – which has rebranded as Vyera – saying the price hike was “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and claimed it was “unsustainable for the health care system.”
Eventually the Federal Trade Commission joined Ms James’ lawsuit against Shkreli.
Ms James celebrated the ruling in a Twitter post on Friday.
“Martin Shkreli is a ‘Pharma Bro’ no more,” she wrote. “The powerful don’t get to make their own rules, despite Shkreli thinking cash rules everything around him.”
The judge ruled that Shkreli’s scheme was “heartless and coercive.”
“Daraprim must be administered within hours to those suffering from active toxoplasma encephalitis,” the judge said.
The judge’s ruling focused on Shkreli’s strategy of cornering the market and hiking the price.
“From day one, Shkreli focused his new venture on acquiring sole-source drugs that were the gold standard treatment option for life-threatening diseases with a small patient population and inferior alternative treatments, with the intent to raise their prices, block generic competition, and reap extraordinary profits,” the judge stated in the ruling.
The judge also noted that Shkreli never showed remorse or regret for making it prohibitively expensive for patients to access the drugs they needed to survive.
“Moreover, in the face of public opprobrium, Shkreli doubled down,” the judge wrote. “He refused to change course and proclaimed that he should have raised Daraprim’s price higher.”
Ultimately, the judge decided to ban Shkreli from participating in the pharmaceutical industry to ensure he cannot continue participating in “anticompetitive conduct.”
“Shkreli established two companies, Retrophin and Vyera, with the same anticompetitive business model: Acquiring sole-source drugs for rare diseases so that he could profit from a monopolist scheme on the backs of a dependent population of pharmaceutical distributors, healthcare providers, and the patients who needed the drugs,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
Even after going to prison on unrelated fraud charges, Shkreli kept the price of the drug high. He was accused of maintaining “shadow control” of the company while in prison, with the judge noting that he threatened to “use his authority as the largest shareholder to call an extraordinary general meeting that would install more pliant officers and directors,” all of which were “loyalists” to his leadership.
The judge wrote that Shkreli “recklessly disregarded the health of a particularly vulnerable population, those with compromised immune systems”
“His scheme burdened those patients, their loved ones, and their healthcare providers,” the ruling stated.
Shkreli attempted to secure a release from prison in 2020 by claiming he could help stop the coronavirus pandemic, despite having no formal medical training.
His lawyers at the time claimed that he had been “conducting significant research” into finding a treatment for Covid-19 while serving out his prison sentence. His request was denied.