Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old pharma company entrepreneur who recently made headlines for raising the price of a life-saving drug to $750 per pill, was arrested on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 17 for securities fraud.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged Shkreli with illegally taking stock from the biotechnology company which he founded in 2011 and using it to pay off his debts from unrelated business deals. Shkreli was CEO of Retrophin, Inc. before the board kicked him out of the company and sued him.
Shkreli then used his other company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, to buy up older drug patents and sell the drugs at a premium.
Since then, Shkreli has been engaged in a “complicated shell game,” according to Bloomberg News, since losing millions from his now-defunct hedge fund. He is accused of illegally using money gained from one company to pay off other companies’ debts in a Ponzi-like arrangement.
Along with Shkreli, his lawyer, Evan Greebel of New York, was also arrested on charges of conspiring with Shkreli for the scheme.
Shkreli rose to infamy in September, when his company, Retrophin Inc., raised the price of Daraprim 55-fold, from an already steep $13.50 per pill, to a whopping — and untenable — $750 per pill. The drug treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic condition that is dangerous for those with compromised immune systems, HIV, and cancer and for unborn babies.
With approximately 48.5% of the U.S. population taking some type of prescription drug in the past 30 days, the price-gouging Shkreli quickly became public enemy #1.
And the move resulted in a severe backlash from liberals and conservatives alike. The Bernie Sanders campaign labeled Shkreli the “poster boy for drug company greed,” and even controversial Presidential candidate Donald Trump called Shkreli a “spoiled brat.”
Yet the hatred for Shkreli is understandable, given that many Americans struggle to access basic healthcare services. The rural residents of Alabama, in particular, are finding it more and more difficult to get to a primary care physician.
An article published on AL.com this month details the startling statistics related to healthcare in the state. Rural communities in Alabama, or 55 of the 67 counties in the state, have about one primary care provider for every 2,200 citizens, writes Montgomery-area pharmacist Jessica Jackson.
Urban areas in the state aren’t faring much better, with one primary care provider for every 990 residents.
As a result, 61 of the state’s counties are either completely or partially deficient in primary care providers; eight of those counties don’t even have a single hospital, leaving thousands of Alabama residents without emergency care services.
That’s coupled with the state’s infant mortality rate, which at 8.7 deaths per 1,000 infants, is far higher than the national average of 5.8 deaths per 1,000, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Healthcare access in Alabama is troubling, to say the least, but Jackson says that the answer may be for state residents to get to know their local pharmacists.
With Shkreli’s arrest and greater access to generic drugs — Daraprim has a $1 per pill generic equivalent thanks to Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Inc. — there may be hope for Americans, and Alabamans in particular, who need better healthcare.