U.S. federal agents have arrested Martin Shkreli, a young business executive who came under fire after a pharmaceutical company he controls abruptly raised the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent.
FBI officials confirmed Thursday that the CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical was taken into custody in New York City Thursday, on charges of securities fraud related to his leadership role at two other companies.
Shkreli, 32, has been a target of federal investigators studying the alleged plundering of a now-defunct hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, and Retrophin Inc., another biopharmaceutical company that dismissed him as its chief executive earlier this year.
Shkreli’s public image as “the most hated man in America,” as some media accounts dubbed him, began after it was learned that Turing, a company that he formed earlier this year, raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used by patients with AIDS and certain types of cancer, from $13.50 to $700 a pill.
Turing owned the rights to market Daraprim, a drug developed decades earlier, but had no role in its research and development.
The preparation fights parasitic infections among those with compromised immune systems.
Shkreli, the son of immigrants from Albania and Croatia, was denounced as a symbol of “defiant greed” after he dismissed criticism of the enormous drug price increase.
Since the firestorm of criticism he provoked in September, the Turing CEO has been quoted as saying that, if he confronted the same management decision again, he would raise the price even higher.
“My investors expect me to maximize profits,” Shkreli said recently at a forum organized by the business publication Forbes.
Startling price increases
Both Turing and Retrophin, during the time it was led by Shkreli, have announced similar startling price increases for drugs they control.
U.S. political leaders have criticized the tactic.
The leading Democratic candidate campaigning for next year’s presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has promised she would, if elected, end “price-gouging”practices in the pharmaceutical industry.
Clinton’s main Democratic challenger, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, refused a $2,700 contribution his campaign received from Shkreli.
And Donald Trump, the flamboyant businessman who currently tops the list of Republican Party presidential hopefuls, said Shkreli is “a spoiled brat” whose tactics are odious.