Martin Shkreli: Man who price hiked life-saving drug ordered to repay £47m profits

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  • Martin Shkreli
    Martin Shkreli
    American businessman and convicted felon
  • Denise Cote
    United States federal judge
Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli (Getty Images)
Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli (Getty Images)

A man who was dubbed “Pharma Bro” after hiking the price of a life-saving drug by nearly 4,000% has been ordered to repay the £47m he made in profit by a US court.

Martin Shkreli sparked widespread outrage when as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals - later Vyera - he steeply increased the price of Daraprim after obtaining exclusive rights to the decades-old medicine in 2015.

The price of the medicine, which treats a rare parasitic disease that affects pregnant women and cancer patients among others, rose from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

Shkreli, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence for fraud, was barred from the drugs industry for life by Judge Denise Cote on Friday and ordered to pay back the profits he and his company made from the scheme.

"Shkreli was no side player in, or a ‘remote, unrelated’ beneficiary of Vyera’s scheme," Cote wrote in a 135-page opinion.

"He was the mastermind of its illegal conduct and the person principally responsible for it throughout the years."

The ruling comes after a seven-day bench trial in December in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission and seven states.

He defended the price hikes as capitalism at work and said insurance and other programmes ensured that people who need Daraprim would ultimately get it.

But the move sparked outrage from medical centres to Congress to the 2016 presidential campaign trail, where Hillary Clinton termed it price-gouging and future president Donald Trump called Shkreli "a spoiled brat".

Shkreli eventually offered hospitals half off - still amounting to a 2,500% increase.

But as patients normally take most of the treatment after returning home, they and their insurers still faced the top price.

He resigned as Turing’s CEO in 2015, a day after he was arrested on securities fraud charges related to hedge funds he ran before getting into the pharmaceuticals industry.

He was convicted and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

Vyera and its parent company, Phoenixus AG, settled the case last month, agreeing to make Daraprim available to any potential generic competitor at the cost of producing the drug.

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