Update: Late Tuesday night, Martin Shkreli made the wise decision to relent and reduce the price of Darapram, saying, “I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people.” Translation: “Now can I go back to being anyone besides the most hated man in America?” Keep in mind, he made this move begrudgingly and he hasn’t yet said what the new price will be, but it does look as if the power of internet outrage was used for something genuinely worthwhile for a change. We’ll have more on this later. As for Shkreli — he’s still a complete asshole. Make no mistake about that.
Sure, I get that Martin Shkreli is loaded. He’s happy to remind you, the lowly serfs of society, at every turn. But I have to believe that if we pooled all our resources, as a country we might be able to come together and hire a bunch of big-ass biker types to beat the fucking shit out of him. Am I advocating violence here? Legally I can’t answer yes to that, but make no mistake: If I opened up my laptop tomorrow morning and was greeted by a headline that read, “Smirking Hedge Fund Asshole Who Jacked Up Price of a Life-Saving Drug by 5500% Plummets To His Death After Being Thrown Out of His Own Helicopter,” I’d lean back, take a sip of coffee and smile the smile of the truly at peace. Because Martin Shkreli is the self-satisfied poster boy for everything that’s gone wrong with American capitalism — and as such, he’s the perfect little sociopath to be made an example of.
By this point you’re probably well aware of what Martin Shkreli did to rightfully earn the wrath of those of us in America’s steerage class. The basic story is that Shkreli and his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to a drug that for more than six decades has been used to treat toxoplasmosis, a disease that can be deadly in those with weakened immune systems. Daraprim is a vital drug in the treatment of HIV and cancer and a full, life-saving treatment can run maybe a grand. Shkreli figured that wasn’t enough money for a human being to pay for his or her life, so on Sunday he jacked the price of the drug up from $13.50 a tablet to $750 overnight. He then appeared on Bloomberg TV to defend the move and, in between smugly preening for the female anchor interviewing him, he didn’t even try to hide his motives, proclaiming that patients with toxoplasmosis “deserve a drug company that’s making a fair profit.” Because if you desperately need a medical treatment, the first thing you’re going to concern yourself with is whether the pharmaceutical company that makes that treatment is rich beyond its wildest dreams. Shkreli thinks this way because to him making millions is its own moral end. Greed, as they say, is good.
But if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Martin Shkreli and lend complete justification to your fantasy of watching him be torn apart by angry pit bulls, there’s the treasure trove of arrogant privilege that is his Twitter account. The awesome Katie Halper over at Raw Storycollected some of the most illustrative missives he’s sent out into the ether and she sums it all up like this: “His tweets can be broken down into three sometimes overlapping main categories: (1) Tweets about how rich he is, (2) Tweets about how his critics are just jealous haters who shouldn’t f*** with him, (3) Tweets in which he compares himself to rapper Eminem, (4) Retweets of other people’s tweets which praise him and attack his critics.”
See for yourself. Let’s start with Shleki’s love of conspicuous consumption.
Then there’s the way he fully embodies one of the most obnoxious traits of the Young Rich White Guy set. Shkreli loves hip-hop and fancies himself the richest, most thuggish lost member of Wu-Tang, which is so fucking offensive on so many levels when you consider the kind of privilege he’s been afforded his entire life. It makes you want to dig up ODB and have him pistol whip Shkreli into the sidewalk.
And here we have the retweeting magic that happens whenever anyone praises Shkreli for being the boy wonder that he is.
Have you picked up a pitchfork yet? Well, if not try this on for size. According to court documents, Martin Shkreli engaged in a vicious campaign of harassment against a former employee and his family last year. As reported by CNBC, the attacks allegedly included illegally accessing social media accounts belonging to the ex-employee and directly contacting his wife and teenage son. Shkreli believed the man had scammed his pharmaceutical company and so at one point reportedly sent his wife a message that read, “Your pathetic excuse of a husband needs to get a real job that does not depend on fraud to succeed … I hope to see you and your four children homeless and will do whatever I can to assure this.”
That still not enough? Well, Slate just published a story that recounts the time Shkreli did exactly what he’s doing to Daraprim to a drug used to treat an incurable form of kidney disease that’s usually diagnosed in kids. At the time, Shkreli was the CEO of a company called Retrophin — the same company his aforementioned ex-employee worked for and the same company that’s now suing him to the tune of $65-million for manipulating stock to bail out his floundering hedge fund– and he jacked up the cost of the drug Thiola from $1.50 per pill to $30 per pill. At the time, as Slate describes, Forbes health care writer Steve Brozak castigated Retrophin for “turning patients into commodities like barrels of oil”; University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Associate Professor of Urology Benjamin Davies called the whole thing “predatory capitalism on the backs of the sick and silent”; and Science Transnational Medicine columnist Derek Lowe said the Thiola price-gouge was the “most unconscionable drug price hike I have yet seen.”
Mary Beth Williams at Salon, meanwhile — someone who knows a thing or two about dealing with the medical profession when your life is on the line — spoke to a friend of hers who’s a chief scientific officer at a biotech company. She wanted to get his opinion on what Martin Shkreli is doing with Daraprim. His take: “I strongly suspect what he did was even skeevier than you think. It’s a kind of evil genius. I can buy a drug (like Daraprim) that should be generic, except the price is so low no one wants to compete with it. Now I put it on a marketing plan that is closed distribution. Then I raise the price 5,000 percent. That’s what prevents anyone from jumping in, by throwing up a pretty big roadblock in their path. In one sense it may be legal, but it’s not right.”
It’s really rare that I spit acid this furiously. It’s even more rare that I direct it at a single person. There are plenty of awful people in positions of power in this country, people who deserve to be knocked down a peg. I’m always happy to at least take a shot at this. But I can’t remember the last time anyone captured the nation’s attention who was this blatantly sociopathic in his lack of concern for anything other than his own grotesque privilege and was ironically in a position to do the most good for people immediately and directly. Put simply, Martin Shkreli is special. He’s a special kind of monstrous, King Joffrey-esque little cunt. And the only good that can come from all of this is if his very existence marks the turning point where we finally rise up and stomp people like him into the ground.
If history is any indicator, it probably won’t happen — but a man can dream.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.