Martin Shkreli testifying before the US Congress in February 2016. Photo: US government
A federal judge in New York on Friday ordered notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli to return the $64.6 million (€56.6 million) he made in profits from jacking up the price of a lifesaving drug he held a monopoly on.
US District Judge Denise Cote also forbid Shkreli from further work in the pharmaceutical industry.
In a 135-page opinion, Cote wrote Shkreli “was the mastermind.”
What is Shkreli being punished for?
The ruling follows a week-long bench trial last month. In court, recordings were played that suggested Shkreli continued to have influence over his company while in prison.
Shkreli was heard on the recordings discussing ways to prevent a costly drug, Daraprim, from being rendered in generic form at an affordable price.
Shkreli was CEO of the company then known as Turing Pharmaceuticals, later known as Vyera Pharmaceuticals, when the company raised the price on Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill.
The decision to jack up the price on Daraprim came after the company secured exclusive rights in 2015.
Daraprim treats a rare parasitic illness that affects pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients.
Was Shkreli price gouging?
Shkreli eventually tried to cut the price in half for hospitals after sufficient public outrage, but he already had the attention of the law enforcement community.
While the new price was still steep, it largely fell on patients who took most of the medication at home, to come up with the $750 needed per pill to foot the cost.
Shkreli defended himself by pointing to market forces and suggesting wealthy insurance companies would foot the bill. The medical community, patients and even members of Congress decried Shkreli’s actions.
During the highly contentious 2016 US presidential election, Shkreli as a villain was a source of unusual bipartisan appeal. Donald Trump called him a “spoiled brat” and Hillary Clinton condemned his actions as price gouging.
What punishment has Shkreli previously faced?
Shkreli resigned as CEO of Turing in 2015 a day after being indicted for securities fraud.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and seven US states brought a case against Shkreli.
In 2018, Shkreli was sentenced to jail for unrelated securities fraud.
To satisfy his court debt in that case, Shkreli had to surrender his unique, one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album.
This article was first published by DW and has been republished here with permission.