UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: ‘Pharma Bro’ who hiked drug price by 5,000% asks for prison release to research COVID-19 treatment

By April 25, 2020 No Comments

A former drug company executive wants to get out of prison so he can help research a treatment for the coronavirus.

Martin Shkreli, known as “Pharma Bro”, first gained notoriety for increasing the price of an HIV drug from $13.50 (£11) to $750 (£609) per pill.

The 37-year-old was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018 for defrauding investors in two botched hedge funds.

Martin Shkreli and his lawyer Benjamin Brafman
Image:Martin Shkreli and his lawyer Ben Brafman

This week, his lawyer Ben Brafman said that Shkreli would file court papers asking federal authorities to release him for three months so he can do laboratory work “under strict supervision”.

“I have always said that if focused and left in a lab, Martin could help cure cancer,” Mr Brafman said in a statement.

“Maybe he can help the scientific community better understand this terrible virus.”

Shkreli, who is renowned for his cocky persona, called the pharmaceutical industry’s response to the pandemic “inadequate” in a research proposal posted online.

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He wrote that researchers at every drug company “should be put to work until COVID-19 is no more”.

He said his background “as a successful two-time biopharma entrepreneur, having purchased multiple companies, invented multiple new drug candidates” would make him a valuable asset to battling the global pandemic.

“I am one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development,” Shkreli continued.

“I do not expect to profit in any way, shape or form from coronavirus-related treatments.”

Shkreli was convicted for crimes that included lying to investors about the performance of two hedge funds he ran, withdrawing more money from those funds than he was entitled to get, and defrauding investors in a drug company, Retrophin, by hiding his ownership of some of its stock.

He was ordered to forfeit $7.3m (£5.9m) by a judge.

Prosecutors had described Shkreli as a master manipulator who duped investors, and said he deserved a stiffer sentence not because he was “the most hated man in America”, but because he was a criminal convicted of serious fraud.

Shkreli hit the headlines in 2015 after defending his decision to increase the price of Daraprim, a cheap drug for treating HIV, by 5,000%.

He bought the rights to the lifesaving drug at another company in 2014 before raising the price.

When questioned about the price hike by Congress a few months later, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination – only to tweet after the hearing that the politicians were “imbeciles”.

Shkreli is also known for attacking critics on social media and offering a bounty to anyone who could give him one of Hillary Clinton’s hairs.

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