Martin Shkreli has been sentenced. The drug industry is trying to get away scot-free.
(Adam Feuerstein, STAT) On Friday, Martin Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison for his convictions on multiple counts of securities fraud – closing the book, for now, on the story of the drug executive who became one of the most despised people in the country.
Shkreli, of course, gained notoriety for raising the price of an old generic drug by 5,000 percent. His trial had nothing to do with that decision.
But that has not stopped him from being a useful foil for pharma executives, who have done everything they can to distance themselves from the “Pharma Bro.”
Just this morning, John Maraganore, the CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and the chairman of BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization), the industry trade group, took to Twitter to remind everyone that Shkreli was not one of them.
“Shkreli has never been part of our biopharma industry. We are about 21st century medicines and impact on patients!” Maraganore tweeted.
“Shkreli was doing what lots of other pharma CEOs did …”
Sorry, John, but that’s just not true. In raising prices, Shkreli was doing what lots of other biotech and pharma CEOs did, and still do to various degrees. Legally.
This is the inconvenient truth that some in the biopharma industry are still running away from, three years after Shkreli sparked a nationwide conversation – some might call it a shaming – about the pricing and affordability of prescription drugs.
Martin did bad stuff. He’s going to prison for it.
But as the founder and CEO of Retrophin, he also played an important role in the development of drugs to treat patients with rare diseases.
Those drugs, if successful and approved, will have an equally beneficial impact on patients as the drugs coming out of Alnylam under Maraganore’s direction.
Raising prices “to unconscionable levels …”
Maraganore might have a stronger case if Shkreli had been the only biopharma CEO to ever raise the price of an old drug to unconscionable levels.
We know that’s not true. Don Bailey at Questcor, Heather Bresch of Mylan, Mike Pearson at Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Allan Oberman of Concordia all did the same, or worse.
But none of those CEOs invented new medicines like Alnylam. Sure, that’s true, but then, what about the CEOs of Celgene, Biogen and Amgen, who greenlight higher prices of their “innovative” drugs multiple times per year, every year?
During the fourth quarter last year, Acadia Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its Parkinson’s disease drug twice!
“To get better, we need to be better at owning our mistakes. Martin was one of our mistakes,” said Bob More, a partner with the biotech venture capital firm Alta Partners on Twitter.
“There are bad people in our industry and let’s keep exposing bad behavior as it tarnishes us all and ultimately hurts patients.”
Well said, Bob. Biopharma doesn’t get enough credit for inventing drugs that truly help patients live better, healthier lives.
Big Pharma denials: “a losing game … “
But denying the industry’s missteps when it comes to drug pricing or insisting that Shkreli is some sort of anomaly is just denial. It’s a losing game.
Shkreli is going away for a long time. The debate over drug prices and what to do about them is not. Displayed with permission from STAT via Repubhub.