“Pharma bro” Martin Shkreli was sued Monday by U.S. officials and the state of New York, who are accusing him of violating antitrust law when he jacked up the price of a crucial drug by 4,000% overnight in 2015.
The suit names Vyera Pharmaceuticals, formerly known as Turing Pharmaceuticals, along with co-owners Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady. It was filed in federal court in Manhattan by the Federal Trade Commission and New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James.
The allegations are separate from what landed Shkreli behind bars, though the drug at the center of the case is the same. He’s in prison serving a seven-year sentence for defrauding investors in hedge funds he ran by lying to them about his track record and performance — as well as for a fraud scheme involving Retrophin Inc., a company he founded in 2011.
The suit seeks to permanently ban Shkreli and Mulleady from working for a pharmaceutical company or owning any part of one. It also seeks money for people who overpaid for the drug.
Shkreli was ousted from Retrophin in 2014 and started Turing Pharmaceuticals the following year. While operating the biopharmaceutical business, Shkreli acquired a drug called Daraprim, a once-affordable anti-infective for a sometimes deadly parasitic infection. The FTC and New York claim he then raised the price and used a complex web of contractual restrictions to block generic versions.
The defendants “acquired the U.S. rights to Daraprim from the only existing supplier and immediately raised the price from $17.50 to $750 per tablet,” according to the complaint. “This massive price hike delivered immediate benefits to defendants.”
“We won’t allow ‘pharma bros’ to manipulate the market and line their pockets at the expense of vulnerable patients,” James said in a statement.
Shkreli’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said the case lacks merit. “Mr. Shkreli looks forward to defeating this baseless and unprecedented attempt by the FTC to sue an individual for monopolizing a market.”
Shkreli, who taught himself biology, and his company Turing Pharmaceuticals were among those included in a 2016 U.S. Senate committee report that called for the government to stop a “monopoly business model” used by some drugmakers to raise prices on certain medications.
In Washington, the infamously sarcastic Shkreli has remained the face of increasingly high drug costs. President Trump has called him a “spoiled brat,” and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has called him a “poster boy for drug company greed.”
Shkreli is scheduled to be released from prison in September 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He’s being held in a facility in Allenwood, Pa.