Shkreli and his company, Vyera Pharmaceuticals, have faced multiple lawsuits over allegations of suppressing competition within the pharmaceutical industry to protect Vyera’s high pricing of a drug called Daraprim, which is the only FDA-approved medication to treat a bacterial infection known as toxoplasmosis. Vyera is the former Turing Pharmaceuticals.
Attorneys for health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota are accusing Shkreli, Vyera, Vyrea parent company Phoenix AG and Pheonix Chairman Kevin Mulleady over their “scheme to monopolize the U.S. market for Daraprim … through an array of anticompetitive conduct that successfully thwarted generic competition for years and continues to cause supracompetitive [sic] prices to this day.”
Shkreli, Mulleady and Vyera purchased the U.S. rights to Daraprim in 2015 and raised its price from $17.50 to $750 per tablet — about a 4,185% increase, the complaint states.
Shkreli, 37, was sentenced to prison for securities fraud in 2017.
“While incarcerated, Defendant Shkreli has continued to direct Defendants’ operations, communicating with Vyera executives and Phoenixus’s board of directors, including Defendant Mulleady, via a contraband cellphone and email and telephone services managed by the Bureau of Prisons,” the complaint states, adding that he “transacts or has transacted business in this District and throughout the United States.”
Robins Kaplan LLP attorney Kellie Lerner, who is representing Blue Cross in the lawsuit, argues that the defendants violated the Sherman Act and put vulnerable patients’ health at risk while illegally preventing the sale of lower-cost, generic versions of Daraprim.
“The magnitude of harm caused by the alleged violations of Martin Shkreli and his co-defendants cannot be overstated. They lined their pockets by jeopardizing access to a life-saving drug while thwarting generic competition,” Lerner said in a Thursday statement.
She added that attorneys, on behalf of Blue Cross, “are asking the court to put an end to the defendants’ scheme and recover what we allege are significant illegal overcharges borne by class members.”
Blue Cross alleges that Vyera owned 100% of the market for pyrimethamine products like Daraprim between 2015 and March 2020 that the Food and Drug Administration approved for sale in the U.S.
“Everyone deserves access to safe, effective, and affordable medication,” Dr. Craig Samitt, president and CEO at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Minnesota, said in a Thursday statement. “This lawsuit is an important step in advancing that goal. Drug companies need to be held accountable for their role in making sure health care costs are sustainable for all.”
Fox News has reached out to Shkreli’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, and Vyera Pharmaceuticals, for comment.
Brittany De Lea contributed to this report.