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‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli sued in NY for 'monopolizing life-saving drug'

Brittany De Lea

Former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli was slapped with another lawsuit on Monday for allegedly hiking the price of a life-saving drug.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York with assistance from the Federal Trade Commission, against Shkreli. His former company Vyera Pharmaceuticals, previously known as Turing Pharmaceuticals, and Kevin Mulleady, another former Vyera executive were also named as defendants.

The New York attorney general alleges the company suppressed competition to protect its “exorbitant pricing” of a drug called Daraprim, which is the only FDA-approved medication to treat a bacterial infection known as toxoplasmosis.

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“Martin Shkreli and Vyera not only enriched themselves by despicably jacking up the price of this life-saving medication by 4,000 percent in a single day, but held this critical drug hostage from patients and competitors as they illegally sought to maintain their monopoly,” James said in a statement. “We won’t allow ‘Pharma Bros’ to manipulate the market and line their pockets at the expense of vulnerable patients and the health care system.”

Shkreli, also known as the “Pharma Bro,” is currently serving a seven-year sentence for securities fraud.

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Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can be life-threatening for people with compromised immune systems, including babies. According to the suit, Daraprim was widely available and affordable until it was purchased by Vyera in 2015. After that, the attorney general said the price of the drug increased by more than 4,000 percent and Vyera made efforts to prevent generic competition from other firms.

A tablet of Daraprim rose to $750, from $17.50, the suit alleges.

James said her office began an investigation into Vyera after it learned of the price hike.

The complaint seeks to end Vyera’s conduct, and offer monetary relief on behalf of victims. The attorney general also wants to courts to ban Shkreli and Mulleady from the industry for life.

Shkreli was previously found guilty on three counts of securities fraud after allegedly running his businesses like a Ponzi scheme. While he lost millions of investors’ dollars on bad trades, he paid them back with profits he made from his drug company Retrophin.

A federal appeals court upheld the securities fraud conviction last year.

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