Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive best known for uncompromisingly increasing the price of a life-saving drug, will have to pay $64.6 million and be banned from the pharmaceutical industry for life for violating antitrust laws, a federal court said on Friday ordered.
Mr Shkreli is serving a seven-year sentence for fraud against investors in connection with his work as head of two hedge funds and another pharmaceutical company. This belief has nothing to do with the drug price saga that made him famous. He is due to be released later this year.
In 2015, Mr. Shkreli — then a pharmaceutical entrepreneur in his early 30s who wasn’t well known outside his industry — acquired a decades-old drug called Daraprim, used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection, and bumped its price to $750 a tablet , starting at $13.50. The move alarmed politicians and the public, already concerned about rising drug prices and the role drug companies can play in making drugs unaffordable.
Most pharmaceutical executives are raising prices more quietly and gradually, and with assurances of ensuring patient access, but Mr Shkreli seemed unrepentant. He became known as the “pharma brother” for his brazen attitude in the face of criticism. The BBC called him possibly “America’s Most Hated Man”.
On Friday, Judge Denise L. Cote of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Mr. Shkreli attempted to maintain a monopoly over Daraprim through anti-competitive tactics. The lawsuit was filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney generals of seven states, including New York.
The judge found that Mr. Shkreli violated state and federal antitrust laws and that his previous company, now known as Vyera Pharmaceuticals, made $64.6 million in excess profits from the sale of Daraprim as a result of that conduct had.
The court found that Vyera, under Mr Shkreli’s control, had changed the way the drug was distributed and hampered competition in the generic drug market. Consumers have been hurt by higher prices and fewer options for the drug, “forcing many patients and physicians to make difficult and risky decisions for the treatment of life-threatening diseases,” the New York Attorney General’s office said in a press release.
In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first generic version of Daraprim.
The court opinion said Mr Shkreli’s “anti-competitive conduct at the expense of public health was blatant and reckless”.
Lawyers for Mr Shkreli did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Mr Shkreli has repeatedly defended his decision to raise Daraprim’s price, saying the profits would allow his company to develop better antiparasitic drugs. When he was convicted of his securities fraud conviction, he said he was never motivated by money and made mistakes trying to bolster his reputation.
During his detention, Mr Shkreli remained in the headlines.
Around the same time he was raising the price of Daraprim, he bought a unique Wu Tang Clan album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, at auction for an alleged $2 million. After Mr Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud, the government confiscated the album to pay part of the $7.36 million he owed.
The government announced last summer that it had sold the album, but did not announce a buyer or the price. In the fall, a collective operating on the border between digital art and cryptocurrency said they bought the recording for $4 million.
In late 2020, Christie Smythe, a former Bloomberg News reporter who helped uncover the story of Mr. Shkreli’s 2015 arrest in the securities case, revealed in an Elle magazine article that she had fallen in love with him and that she in a relationship. She continued to stand up for him.
This month, another healthcare entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, founder of blood testing startup Theranos, was found guilty of defrauding investors. Her sentencing is scheduled for September 26th.