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Ex-Hedge Fund Manager Turned Pharmaceutical CEO Doesn't See The Big Deal Charging $750 Today For Life-Saving Drug That Cost $13.50 Yesterday

Martin Shkeli is surprised and hurt by the hate.
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Shkreli, in happier times.

Once upon a time, Martin Shkreli was an investment professional who made a nice chunk of change by doing things like lobbying the Food and Drug Administration "not to approve certain drugs made by companies whose stock he was shorting." Then one day he realized that while running a hedge fund provided a nice standard of living, he stood to make some real money working the pharmaceutical industry from the inside. So he started a firm called Retrophin, "which acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices," and though his relationship with the firm didn't pan out so well (the board fired him, made some unsavory allegations about "personal piggy banks," etc), the business model he established proved profitable and if it's morally questionable but ain't broke...

Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Weirdly, Shkreli has received some blow-back for the move, which he doesn't understand at all, as forcing people to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars not to die doesn't strike him as a big deal.

Martin Shkreli, the founder and chief executive of Turing, said that the drug is so rarely used that the impact on the health system would be minuscule...“This is still one of the smallest pharmaceutical products in the world,” he said. “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”

Anyway, don't talk to Shrekli about being a victim of an unfair system, when he himself is actually a victim of an unfair system.

Retrophin’s board fired Mr. Shkreli a year ago. Last month, it filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Manhattan, accusing him of using Retrophin as a personal piggy bank to pay back angry investors in his hedge fund. Mr. Shkreli has denied the accusations. He has filed for arbitration against his old company, which he says owes him at least $25 million in severance. “They are sort of concocting this wild and crazy and unlikely story to swindle me out of the money,” he said.

Maybe wait to get all up in arms about the move until after you've walked a mile in in Shkreli's shoes.

Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight [NYT]

Related: Hey, Martin Shkreli: Shut. The hell. Up


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