Drug-Price Poster Boy’s Arrest Unlikely to Curb Increases

Threatening one tiny drug company’s CEO with prison isn’t going to stop drugmakers from raising prices on products.

Turing Pharmaceuticals AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli was arrested Thursday by U.S. law enforcement on charges of securities law violations that don’t involve his current company. Shkreli has previously denied any wrongdoing in the matter, and Elissa Preheim, an attorney representing him, declined to comment Thursday.

What Shkreli is best known for, though, is using Turing to acquire the rights to an anti-infective drug often used by AIDS and cancer patients, and jacking up the price to $750 a pill from $13.50. In doing so, he became the flamboyant poster child of pharmaceutical price increases and the example held up by lawmakers as cause to reform the industry. The BBC went so far as to ask whether he was “the most hated man in America.”

While Shkreli’s price hike raised eyebrows because of its scale, significant increases are a common practice in the industry. For example, Merck & Co.’s diabetes pill, Januvia, has more than doubled in price since it was introduced in 2006. Novartis AG’s cancer treatment Gleevec cost $32,000 in 2001 and is now about $120,000. Pfizer Inc., meanwhile, raised prices on at least 133 of its brand-name products this year.