WASHINGTON — Martin Shkreli, a former pharmaceutical executive serving a seven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors, was accused on Monday of trying to maintain a monopoly over the lifesaving drug Daraprim through anticompetitive tactics.
The Federal Trade Commission and the office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, jointly sued Vyera Pharmaceuticals and the company’s owners, Mr. Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady, in a federal court in Manhattan. They say Vyera and its leaders had an “elaborate and anticompetitive scheme” that blocked generics from entering the market after the company jacked up prices of Daraprim. The drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a rare, potentially fatal parasitic infection.
Mr. Shkreli became known as a “pharma bro” for his brash attitude when faced with criticisms for raising prices of Daraprim by 5,000 percent, making it prohibitively expensive. In 2018, he was sentenced to prison for defrauding investors in hedge funds he ran by lying about his performance and track record.
In their suit, the F.T.C. and New York attorney general say that soon after Vyera bought the rights to Daraprim in August 2015, it raised the price per tablet to $750 from less than $20, knowing the increase would attract generic competition. Before Vyera’s purchase of Daraprim, the drug had been accessible and affordable for decades. Daraprim is the only drug approved by the Federal Drug Administration to fight toxoplasmosis, which can kill people who have compromised immune systems, including babies and H.I.V. patients.
After Vyera raised its prices, it tried to block competitors from creating generic versions by restricting access to samples and ingredients necessary to produce the drug, the suit says.
Mr. Shkreli denies the claims.
“Mr. Shkreli looks forward to defeating this baseless and unprecedented attempt by the F.T.C. to sue an individual for monopolizing a market,” his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement.
The complaint asserts that consumers and other Daraprim buyers most likely would have saved tens of millions of dollars by purchasing generic versions of the drug, which do not exist on the market today.
Ms. James said her office was seeking to block Mr. Shkreli from working again in the pharmaceutical industry.
“We won’t allow ‘pharma bros’ to manipulate the market and line their pockets at the expense of vulnerable patients and the health care system,” she said.
Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting from New York.