Disgraced former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, described by probation officials as “delusional” and “self-aggrandizing,” won’t get a furlough from prison to pursue a cure for COVID-19.
Shkreli is serving a seven-year term for defrauding investors and is also infamous for jacking up the price of a drug for an HIV-related condition by 5,000 percent. Nicknamed "Pharma bro" by social media users, Shkreli asked for a three-month release so he could research a cure for COVID-19, but the federal probation department and the judge overseeing his case weren’t impressed by his claim that he could defeat the disease. He had said in a research proposal that the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to address the pandemic are “inadequate” and that he is “one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development.”
Probation officials had noted that a cure has “so far eluded the best medical and scientific minds in the world working around the clock,” CNBC reports. Shkreli’s assertion that he could succeed where they had not is the type of “delusional self-aggrandizing behavior” that resulted in his conviction, they added.
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto agreed, and she quoted the officials in a Saturday ruling denying Shkreli’s request. She also ruled that he did not merit compassionate release for health reasons. He had claimed to suffer from allergies and asthma, which increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
His lawyers had filed court papers saying Shkreli had these conditions, but Matsumoto observed that there is no record of him having such diagnoses or receiving treatment, and he had not mentioned any health problems in a previous petition seeking early release.
Shkreli, at 37, “is considerably younger” than the high-risk population, she added. Health experts say that risk of serious illness from the coronavirus increases with age, with it being highest for people over 60.
Shkreli, who was convicted in 2017 and sentenced in 2018, is serving his term at a federal prison in Pennsylvania where there have been no reported COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, he was seeking to be released to his fiancée’s apartment in New York City, a hot spot for the virus.
Shkreli’s criminal actions include lying to investors about the performance of two hedge funds he managed and manipulating the stock price of Retrophin, a drug company he founded. He is also notorious for an action he took while heading another company, Turing Pharmaceuticals — instituting a 5,000 percent price hike for Daraprim, a drug used to treat a parasitic infection that is sometimes found in people with HIV as well as babies and pregnant women.