We have a new Most Hated Man in America and his name is Martin Shkreli. The CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals has been the subject of withering mainstream media coverage with outrage-inducing headlines including USA Today's "Company hikes price 5,000% for drug that fights complication of AIDS, cancer" on Friday and The New York Times' "Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight" on Sunday.
As the Times explains,
Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As of this writing, the Times story tops its "Most Viewed" chart, comes in at No. 2 on "Most Emailed" and is the focus of a tweet by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is promising action:
Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I'll lay out a plan to take it on. -H https://t.co/9Z0Aw7aI6h— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 21, 2015
So how is Martin Shkreli handling all the negative attention? Short answer: Badly!
As Gawker's Sam Biddle notes in a post titled "Pharmaceutical Greed Villain Martin Shkreli Will Fight the Whole Internet," Shkreli has gone on the warpath on Twitter, slapping back at his critics, calling one journalist a "moron" and engaging in exchanges like this with random people:
@AdamR_93 I don't think you have the facts though. Seems you are pulling this frustration from other parts of your life maybe?— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) September 20, 2015
Biddle also points out that Shkreli didn't do himself any favors by putting this preposterous image of himself up on Twitter in August:
The 32-year-old CEO looked just as green (but way less self-assured) in a brief interview he did with Bloomberg Markets on Monday -- his argument is that Turing will be investing the extra dough from Daraprim's price hike in R&D -- but journalists looking for the baby-faced villain to further lay out his reasoning are out of luck. Because late this morning, Shkreli, ever the charmer, tweeted this:
Media: sorry, no more interviews. I have a busy and important job. I've said what I needed to and anyone interested can view those pieces.— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) September 22, 2015
So leave him alone already!
UPDATE: He changed his mind about "no more interviews":
I'll be on ABC Nightly News tonight with my last comments on this matter and then flipping my Twitter to private. Try to listen!— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) September 22, 2015
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.