U.S. judge bars Martin Shkreli from drug industry, orders $64.6 mln payment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday banned Martin Shkreli from working in the pharmaceutical industry for life and ordered him to pay $64.6 million after he became famous for raising the price of the drug Daraprim and fighting to block competitors from generic drugs.

US District Judge Dennis Cote ruled in Manhattan after a trial in which the US Federal Trade Commission and seven states accused Shkreli, the founder of Vera Pharmaceuticals, of using illegal tactics to keep Daraprim’s competitors off the market.

Shkreli became famous in 2015 after the price of Daraprim went up overnight to $750 for a tablet from $17.50. The drug treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that threatens people with weakened immune systems.

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In a 130-page resolution, Kot criticized Shkreli for creating two companies, Vyera and Retrophin Inc, designed to monopolize medicines so he could profit “on the backs” of patients, doctors and distributors.

She said Daraprim’s scheme was “particularly coercive and coercive,” and that there was a need to ban the industry for life because of the “real danger” of Shkreli becoming a repeat offender.

“Shkreli’s anti-competitive behavior at the expense of public health was blatant and reckless,” the judge wrote. “He is unrepentant. Preventing him from repeating this behavior is nothing if it is not in the interests of justice.”

Following the ruling, FTC Chair Lina Khan tweeted the decision, calling it a “fair outcome”.

Shkreli’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shkreli is serving a seven-year prison sentence for securities fraud. He did not attend last month’s trial.

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

Regulators accused Vyera of protecting its dominance of Daraprim by ensuring that generic drug makers could not obtain samples for cheaper versions, and preventing potential competitors from buying a key ingredient.

The seven states that joined the FTC’s case included California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Jonathan Stemple) Editing by Jonathan Otis

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