America, 2015: a former hedge fund bro who owns a pharmaceutical business is raising the price of an essential drug used to treat AIDS and cancer patients (Daraprim) by 5000%, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill overnight and without warning. It’s the type of comic book villainy that even the most passionate anti-capitalist probably couldn’t fathom in their wildest wet dream. And sadly, it’s a profit-generating practice that’s becoming increasingly common. (“Best healthcare in the world,” you guys!) In this, the most egregious/revolting instance to date, 32 year-old Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has gone from anonymity to Public Enemy #1 in breakneck speed.
Shkreli isn’t just a regular, run-of-the-mill pharmaceutical industry monster. He’s a monster who used to work (of course) in finance, a former hedge funder accused of having tried to manipulate FDA regulations on drug companies whose stocks he was shorting. He was forced out of the last drug company he started, which is now suing him for $65 million. He’s also a probable charlatan who has claimed to have invented his own pharmaceuticals, despite his lack of any medical or scientific education. (Shkreli is able to do price-gouge a generic drug by exploiting a few FDA loopholes that give companies exclusive licensing rights to certain older drugs, and allow them to deny other companies the access to those drugs needed to prove that a generic alternative is chemically identical.)
Now, Shkreli, who claims the astronomical price increase for Daraprim is needed so that his company can fund the research and development of other drugs, is on Twitter and he had actually been engaging some of the many people spitting hot fire his way. I say “had” because it appears that on Tuesday night he finally had enough and made his Twitter profile private. But not before he had a lovely exchange with Key & Peele collaborator Peter Atencio — who directed the vast majority of the episodes of the comedy duo’s Comedy Central show and their upcoming film, Keanu — that was captured by another Twitter user.