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FTC takes 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli to trial over drug price hike

Shkreli is accused of masterminding an illegal scheme to jack up prices of the lifesaving drug Daraprim by around 4,000 percent.

 The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and several states are set to take Vyera Pharmaceuticals founder Martin Shkreli to trial on Tuesday for trying to block generic versions of Vyera’s life-saving drug Daraprim, a week after settling with the company.

The FTC and the states have accused Shkreli of masterminding an illegal scheme to buy Daraprim and secure a monopoly on it so that Vyera could raise its price to $750 per tablet, from $17.50, a move that made Shkreli infamous as “Pharma Bro” in 2015.

The drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that threatens people with weakened immune systems.

The non-jury trial will take place before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan federal court. Christopher Casey, a lawyer for Shkreli, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

Vyera, founded in 2014 as Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired Daraprim from Impax Laboratories Inc in 2015.

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The FTC and states allege that the company then prevented generic drugmakers from obtaining samples to develop their own versions of the drug, and reached a deal with the sole U.S. supplier of the drug’s active ingredient preventing sales to competitors.

They said the company’s actions violated federal antitrust laws and harmed patients. The first generic version of Daraprim was approved in 2020.

Former drug company executive Martin Shkreli is surrounded by news cameras as he exits U.S. District Court following the second day of jury deliberations in his securities fraud trial in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
Martin Shkreli leaving court during his securities fraud trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 1, 2017.Mike Segar / Reuters file

Vyera and former chief executive Kevin Mulleady settled the case against them last week. The deal calls for Vyera to pay $10 million up front plus up to $30 million over 10 years, and bans Mulleady from most roles in the pharmaceutical industry for seven years.

Shkreli is currently serving a seven-year prison term for his 2017 conviction for cheating investors in two hedge funds and trying to prop up the stock price of another drug company he led, Retrophin Inc. He is eligible for release next year.