‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli released from prison

Martin Shkreli, the infamous “pharma bro” who was sentenced to prison for securities fraud, was transferred to a halfway house operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons after finishing programs that allowed his jail time to be shortened, according to a statement issued by his attorney.

Shkreli had been serving time in a federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., and was expected to be released in September. He remains in federal custody until Sept. 14, according to a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. There was no further comment from his attorney, Benjamin Brafman. Shkreli was twice previously denied an early release.

The unexpected move, which first came to light on Twitter on Wednesday morning, is the latest twist in a complicated and sensational saga that transfixed the American public over Shkreli, who played an outsized role in the controversy over the rising cost of prescription medicines.

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The former hedge fund manager quickly became reviled for his smug responses to criticism that he callously exploited the pharmaceutical pricing system after his former company purchased an old, life-saving drug and jacked up the price by 4,000% overnight. The price hike prompted waves of anger at the industry but especially Shkreli, who became a poster child for pharmaceutical greed.

Earlier this year, he was ordered to pay $64.6 million in profits and was banned for life from the industry. The decision followed a trial in which Shkreli was accused by federal and state authorities of stifling competition. An expert who testified on behalf of the government calculated his company would have generated $67.6 million less in sales had the price of the drug not been raised as it had.

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By then, Shkreli was already serving a seven-year prison sentence for securities fraud. Securities regulators alleged Shkreli misled investors in hedge funds he was managing and also misappropriated nearly $1 million. He was permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of any publicly traded company, and fined $1.39 million for violating securities laws between 2009 and 2014.

For those interested in the drug pricing saga, it began when Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought Daraprim, a drug taken by people with HIV, and raised the price from $17.50 a tablet to $750. The move galvanized criticism of the pharmaceutical industry at a moment when the cost of prescription drugs was becoming a pocketbook issue for many Americans.

Until recently, Daraprim was the only drug approved in the U.S. for treating toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can cause serious and often life-threatening consequences for those with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV. The pill was viewed as the gold standard for treating acute toxoplasmosis and the sudden price hike caused a national wave of anger and revulsion.

In a Jan. 2020 lawsuit, federal and state authorities contended the company used various means to block lower-cost alternatives from coming to market. One method involved distribution agreements that ensured generic companies could not buy samples of Daraprim that would be needed for testing required for regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Another tactic was the use of “data blocking” agreements, which prevented several distributors from selling Daraprim sales data to third-party data companies. Generic companies rely on this data to assess whether a given development project is worth pursuing. With these agreements, Shkreli and Vyera sought to keep potential generic competitors from accurately assessing the market.

Source: STAT