A Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate sued “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, in a Manhattan federal court Thursday, March 4, alleging a scheme to monopolize the market for Daraprim, the “gold-standard treatment” for the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, reported Bloomberg.
Shkreli’s companies raised the drug’s price by more than 4,000% after acquiring the rights in 2015, then conspired to “thwart generic competition” through “deception and fraud” while claiming “their scheme was necessary to serve patients,” the complaint stated. “None of their claims were truthful.”
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, echoes the claims from an ongoing case brought by the government, which Shkreli is fighting from the prison where he’s been locked up since 2017 on an unrelated fraud conviction. Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy for lying to hedge-fund investors and manipulating shares in a biotech company he founded, Retrophin.
Toxoplasmosis—caused by a parasite found most often in cat feces—normally involves only mild symptoms, if any, but the disease can be life-threatening in immune-compromised people, such as pregnant women or those with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to Shkreli, the 128-page suit by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota targets Vyera Pharmaceuticals, Phoenixus, and Phoenixus CEO Kevin Mulleady. Vyera is the former Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The proposed class action accuses them of preventing rivals from capitalizing on the “astronomical” Daraprim price hike—”from US$17.50 to US$750 per tablet”—through resale restrictions in the contracts between Vyera, Phoenixus, and the specialty manufacturers that made the drug’s key ingredients.