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Judge rejects Martin Shkreli's prison release request to work on COVID-19 therapy

Published on 18/05/20 at 01:13pm
Image credit: House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, https://oversight.house.gov/hearing/developments-in-the-prescription-drug-market-oversight/

Notorious incarcerated ex-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli has his request rejected to be released from prison in order to research a therapy to combat the coronavirus pandemic, with a judge slapping the notion down as “delusional”.

The 37-year-old’s request was filed in April by his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, whose clients have included Mafia members and disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein. The appeal had asked for Shkreli’s release from prison so he could be relocated to his fiancé’s New York City accommodation under home confinement rules in order to develop a therapy to treat COVID-19.

Shkreli and Brafman maintained that release was also necessary due to vulnerabilities arising from Shkreli’s childhood asthma – something the US District Judge Kiyo A Matsumoto said there was no evidence for in medical files.

In a published scientific paper, Shkreli has outlined a new screening technology to identify potential drug candidates which may prove effective against the virus. Despite his assertions that he is “one of the few executives” who could make this a reality, Matsumoto ruled that such a claim to find a therapy that has “so far eluded the  best medical and scientific minds in the world working around the clock” was “delusional self-aggrandising behaviour” – the same behaviour that led to his conviction.

This was despite Shkreli’s assurances that: “For the avoidance of doubt, I have not been paid for any work on this matter or any other matter while incarcerated...I do not expect to profit in any way, shape or form from coronavirus-related treatments.” 

Shkreli is infamous for the hiking of the price of HIV toxoplasmosis medication Daraprim by 5,500% from $13.50 to $750, becoming “the most hated man in America” overnight. Though the law eventually caught up with his misdeeds in the life sciences industry, he was not actually convicted for the act of price hiking for which he is best known, which is not illegal in all circumstances in the US, and instead is serving a seven-year sentence for securities fraud.

Matt Fellows

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