It’s been a strange year for Martin Shkreli, the head of Turing Pharmaceuticals and someone who has led one of the most publicly watched and heavily criticized lives of any pharmaceutical business executive. The 32-year-old CEO firmly planted himself at the receiving end of national outrage over corporate greed and exorbitant medical costs in September when he abruptly raised the price of a drug that had been sold at a low cost in the U.S. for decades.
Thursday morning he was arrested in New York City on unrelated charges of alleged security fraud committed while leading two former companies.
A year ago, Shkreli was already facing multiple investigations into his activities at MSMB Capital Management LLC, a hedge fund, and Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company. In September 2014 he had been ousted by the board of Retrophin, which he founded, for his alleged inappropriate use of company assets. Shkreli has loudly dismissed Retrophin’s accusations of wrongdoing and mismanagement.
In February of this year, Shkreli launched a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. At the time, the company hoped to focus on developing and commercializing several treatments, including ones for rage disorder and hypertension. In an interview with International Business Times, Shkreli said an intranasal form of ketamine to treat severe depression was the company’s “crown jewel." He also said Turing is "a flourishing company."
During that interview he spoke of taking Turing public later in the year and his hopes of turning it into a billion-dollar company. When asked about the human impact he aspired to create with his new drugs, he focused on his expertise and motives as an investor. "I come from finance. I want that more than anything. I've made quite a fortune with my first company and now with this one," he said, adding, "I'm also tons of controversy."
He has certainly courted controversy. On the heels of his newly formed company’s launch, Shkreli placed a generous bid of $2 million on a Wu-Tang album that was to be the only copy released. The band accepted the offer and closed the deal this fall.
Should one of my companies change its name to Wu-Tang Pharmaceuticals? (Lawsuits be damned).
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 11, 2015
Wu-Tang member RZA has since expressed his regrets for the sale because in September, Shkreli made headlines for Turing’s sudden price hike of a 62-year-old medicine called Daraprim, which is used to treat a type of parasitic infection. His company raised the price of one pill from $13.50 to $750. A New York Times story about the hike incited immediate public fury from hospitals and physicians who had long purchased it at the lower price.
That move also prompted Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to outline and campaign heavily on plans to rein in prescription drug prices. Clinton tweeted repeatedly about Shkreli’s greed. In October, Sanders rejected a $2,700 campaign donation from Shkreli, instead sending it to a health clinic. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called him “a spoiled brat.”
Around the same time, Turing was expelled from BIO, the leading biotech industry group. It was a rare instance of the industry disowning one of its own in the face of heavy public criticism. Eventually, Turing pledged to offer discounts to patients who needed the drug. Randomly, he also began broadcasting himself 24 hours a day over a YouTube channel.
In November, Shkreli purchased another company called KaloBios Pharmaceuticals that is developing a drug called lenzilumab to treat a type of leukemia. He swiftly used KaloBios to purchase the rights to sell a drug called Benznidazole, which is used in the treatment of a parasitic infection called Chagas disease. That drug is already on the market in some countries. Shares of KaloBios jumped on the news.
Though investors were enthusiastic, Shkreli’s very public lambasting over Daraprim’s price hike was far from over. Earlier this month, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee Aging about drug price hikes, during which McCaskill chided Shkreli for both his business decisions and Wu-Tang purchase.
50-100 date solicitations a day for me, the world's most eligible bachelor. Sorry, but you have to be a shareholder to meet me.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 14, 2015
Just this week, Shkreli once again sparked controversy and earned a new host of online enemies by making a crude comment inviting sexual acts from Taylor Swift during a media interview.
But early Thursday federal agents arrested Shkreli from his Manhattan home on charges of securities fraud. For now, his livestream has gone dark.