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Judge denies Martin Shkreli early prison release request despite coronavirus fears

Lucas Manfredi

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A federal judge has denied "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli's request for early release from prison despite the convicted fraudster's fears of contracting the coronavirus, citing his good health and low risk at the Pennsylvania lockup where he's currently confined.

"Shkreli is a healthy, 37-year-old man with no recent history of preexisting medical conditions that place him at higher risk for COVID-19 and its potentially life-threatening adverse effects,” Judge Kiyo Matsumoto wrote in her decision. "And he is confined in a facility where there are currently no cases of COVID-19."

The news comes following a court filing by Shkreli's lawyers saying the pharmaceutical executive should be given a "compassionate release" from Allenwood Low Federal Correctional Institution for the rest of his sentence on an emergency basis, citing his susceptibility to the virus due to asthma and allergies.

Shkreli, who claimed to be working on a cure for the coronavirus last month, also argued that an early release would help him conduct research.

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In a scientific paper titled "In silico screening for potential COVID-19 beta-coronavirus non-nucleoside RdRp inhibitors," Shkreli said that the pharmaceutical industry has a "large braintrust of talent" that is not helping in the fight against the coronavirus because they "deprioritized or even abandoned infectious disease research."

"The industry response to COVID-19 is inadequate," Shkreli wrote. "All biopharmaceutical companies should be responding with all resources to combat this health emergency."

Shkreli requested a "brief furlough" of three months from prison to help develop a potential coronavirus treatment.

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While Shkreli said that "being released to the post-COVID world is no solace to even the incarcerated," he believes that his experience in the pharmaceutical industry makes him well equipped to help find a potential treatment.

"I am one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development," Shkreli said. "I have not been paid for any work on this matter or any other matter while incarcerated [and] I do not expect to profit in any way, shape or form from coronavirus-related treatments."

But the court found no legal basis that Shkreli's release would "protect the public."

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"The court does not find that releasing Mr. Shkreli will protect the public, even though Mr. Shkreli seeks to leverage his experience with pharmaceuticals to help develop a cure for Covid-19 that he would purportedly provide at no cost," Judge Matsumoto wrote. "In any event, Mr. Shkreli's self-described altruistic intentions do not provide a legal basis to grant his motion."

Matsumoto added that Shkreli's claim of finding a cure that has "so far eluded the best medical and scientific minds in the world working around the clock" is the type of "delusional, self-aggrandizing behavior" that led to his conviction in the first place.

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The infamous pharmaceutical executive was given a seven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors in two failed hedge funds after gaining notoriety for inflating the price of the AIDS drug Daraprim by nearly 5,000 percent in 2015.

He is scheduled to be released in October 2023.

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