Business

Martin Shkreli links arrest to drug price hikes

Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur facing U.S. charges of securities fraud, has said he had been the target of legal authorities for his much-criticized drug-price hikes and his over-the-top public persona, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Martin Shkreli faces a sentence of as much as 20 years in prison if he's convicted on one of the counts he's charged in. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur facing U.S. charges of securities fraud, has said he had been the target of legal authorities for his much-criticized drug-price hikes and his over-the-top public persona, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Shkreli, who was arrested on Thursday and released soon after on a $5 million US bond, has been charged for engaging in what U.S. prosecutors said was a Ponzi-like scheme at his former hedge fund MSMB Capital Management and Retrophin Inc, a company he headed before he took the helm of Turing Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The maximum sentence for the top count is 20 years in prison.

Earlier this year, after buying a 60-year-old drug called Daraprim, Turing raised the price overnight to $750 US a tablet from $13.50 US. The increase propelled Shkreli to the media spotlight: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pilloried him for gouging, and he was pulled into congressional drug pricing investigations.

The government charges do not include activities at privately held Turing. "'Trying to find anything we could to stop him' was the attitude of the government," Shkreli told the Journal in an interview, saying he was arrested because of a social experiment and teasing people over the Internet, and called the arrest unjust. According to the Journal, a Federal Bureau of Investigation official earlier said Shkreli pursued "a securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed."

While being unapologetic about the price of Daraprim, Shkreli added in the interview that Turing, from which he resigned as chief executive after the arrest, might change its approach. Turing, on Friday, replaced Shkreli with Ron Tilles, who has been chairman of the company since its launch.

They co-founded the pharmaceutical company, Retrophin. Reuters could not independently reach the FBI and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office for comment outside regular U.S. business hours. In a separate incident, on Sunday, Martin Shkreli had lost control of his Twitter account to hackers, hours after he took to Twitter to plead his innocence, his spokesman said.

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