The arrival of Martin Shkreli into the discourse of 2015 has had all the hallmarks of a super-moon or some other semi-rare phenomenon requiring the perfect alignment of nature’s forces.
Shkreli, duly dubbed “Pharma Bro” by the media, is the perfect and very hateable combination of arrogance, youth, and avarice. He has our attention because his work as a pharmaceutical executive holds in contrast against his clients—people who are often sick, poor, and vulnerable.
In September, Shkreli raised the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 and spent $2 million to buy the only copy of a Wu-Tang Clan album. Writing in The Atlantic in September, James Hamblin called him “the face of unapologetic profiteering from the suffering of humans.”
Shkreli was arrested on Thursday on securities-fraud charges. Earlier this week, Daisy Hernández wrote in The Atlantic that Shkreli had a new gambit that would raise the price of a drug used to a treat Chagas, a disease mostly affecting Latin American immigrants. “Chagas is a disease of the poor,” said an adviser for Doctors Without Borders, “so it’s not a disease where people have access if prices are high.”
This latest scheme seems revelatory given the biography of this 32-year-old executive. According to Bloomberg, he's from a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn and the son of Albanian and Croatian immigrants who worked as janitors. “He dropped out of high school and cut his teeth as an intern on Jim Cramer’s CNBC show Mad Money,” wrote Victor Luckerson at Time. “Later, he started a pair of hedge funds, Elea Capital and MSMB Capital.”