Martin Shkreli is back: The "Donald Trump of drug development" is just as loathsome as ever

The Turing CEO unlocked his Twitter, but still hasn't touched his his jacked-up drug prices

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
October 12, 2015 11:32PM (UTC)
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Three weeks is a long time in Internet rage. Long enough for the furor of late September to subside, right? Long enough for the return of Martin Shkreli.

You remember Martin Shkreli — the notorious CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who incited the wrath of social media when his company overnight raised the price of the toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 — a stunning 5,455 percent. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite infection that can be particularly threatening to pregnant women and HIV patients. Hillary Clinton called the move "price gouging." Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Shkreli saying, "This dramatic price increase will have a direct impact on patients' ability to purchase their needed medications." And in Salon, the chief scientific officer at a biotech company called Shkreli "the Donald Trump of drug development." Shkreli did not exactly endear himself to his public when his Twitter history revealed a unique penchant for quoting Eminem, retweeting obsequious praise and posting photos of his helicopter rides and expensive bottles of wine.


But then, in the midst of public outrage, Shkreli announced, "I'll be on ABC Nightly News tonight with my last comments on this matter and then flipping my Twitter to private. Try to listen!" He told reporters, "There were mistakes made with respect to helping people understand why we took this action, I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people." Yet now, twenty days later, the Observer and other outlets are reporting that the price of Daraprim remains the same, with no comment from the company on when any adjustment is forthcoming.

It's not that Turing hasn't been busy — earlier this month it hired lobbyists from Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney for "Strategy development and implementation of the company's federal government relations initiatives." And Shkreli himself didn't take a full social sabbatical — just last week, Mic's Eve Peyser wrote of her recent exchange with him on Tinder. And now the man who calls journalists who question his methods "morons" has made his Twitter profile public again. Meet the new Martin Shkreli, same as the old Martin Shkreli.

It hasn't taken him long to establish that Shkreli, in the apparently copious time he might be using to lower drug costs, is content to mix it up like any common Internet troll. As a colleague observed Monday, the guy's like 4chan with money. He's been busily telling critics they "smell liberal," and to "F__k your stupid cartoon."


Remember, this is a guy who could be setting the price of your medicine.

He does appear to have quietly removed some of his more conspicuous consumption related tweets — his photos of $9,000 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild no longer come up. But he's still taking his cues from the Trump school of social relations, explaining that "'Are you a moron?' has more value for some audiences," making empty promises to give money to charity, retweeting Hillary bashing memes, and announcing, "Pleased to welcome one of my first $RTRX Retrophin co-workers to Turing. Welcome back. Several more on the way. #superiorcompany." In August, Retrophin sued him for $65 million, alleging that he created the biotech and took it public solely to provide stock to [hedge fund] MSMB investors when the hedge fund became insolvent.

But what about the cost of Daraprim? No mention. And when I tweeted ,"Thanks for making your Twitter page public again @MartinShkreli. When is Turing going to make good on its promises?" he favorited it, which implies he read the question, but didn't answer.


He also favorited it when I posted a Raw Story article on how he's "worse than you think." I favorite that, too.

Just last week, Shkreli — whose resume is rather spotty thanks to some previous abrupt departures — revealed to Reuters that he is in the midst of a "very expensive, well articulated" plan to improve his public image. He says, "Every media advisor is on our payroll." That seems to be going well. But I guess if anyone knows about wildly overpaying for things, it's Martin Shkreli.


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Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Aol_on Martin Shkreli Pharmaceutical Industry Turing Pharmaceuticals