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  • Writer's pictureSiri Kandi

“Big Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli’s Trial and the Increase in Daparim Costs

If you paid attention to the World Health Organization’s update in December 2020, you probably read that Ischaemic heart disease was the number one leading cause of death in 2019. If the World Health Organization posts an update in December 2021, we can expect COVID-19 to take first place above all the other illnesses. However, if we focus on the United States, the topic of parasitic infections typically does not come to mind. One of the most neglected of all parasitic infections is Toxoplasmosis – a leading cause of death caused by food poisoning in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “more than 40 million men, women, and children in the U.S carry the Toxoplasma parasite…”. Families could suffer from a loss of a loved one simply because their meat or shellfish was undercooked or contaminated. Meat and shellfish being undercooked or contaminated are few of many cases, though.

Luckly, it was Martin Shkreli’s company Turing Pharmaceuticals that created a miracle: Daraprim. This antiparasitic drug can treat severe toxoplasmosis, with originally costing only $13.50 per tablet. Sounds pretty affordable, right? Well, in September 2015, Shkreli decided to increase Daraprim’s pricing by a factor of 56 after obtaining its manufacturing license. In other words, $13.50 per tablet quickly went up to $750 per tablet (Chase, Lauren). The public began the conversation of unaffordable drug pricing, especially on Twitter. However, the production of Daraprim’s generic was stalled. One of the primary contributions to this stall is the United States Food and Drug Administration’s slow drug approval process. Another reason was Shkreli’s upcoming trial.

Why was Martin Shkreli on trial?

Shkreli’s trial did not concern the controversy of Daraprim’s pricing. Instead, he experienced eight counties of securities and wire fraud at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He cheated investors in both his hedge funds: MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare. After the investors complained to him, he gave them back stolen stocks from his own company, Retrophin. During the trial, the prosecutors put up a lot of evidence against him, showing that he conned the investors into putting a lot of money into his hedge funds. His only defense against it was that he had a solid plan for investment to show them and convince them that their money was not put to waste. His defense lawyers wanted him to have the cleanest image to the jury as possible. They put him in clean clothes and made him tell the jury in tears that “[he] did not act properly” (theGaurdian). His lawyer Mr. Brafman made it seem like he did not mean to defraud anyone and portray him as the “boy genius”. Since he did not, technically, create a fraud with the investors and lose their money, he did not get convicted because of that. He was released because of the Retropin-count.

Written By: Michelle Diaz and Siri Kandi

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