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NC among states winning $64.6M after drug firm charged $750 per pill to treat life-threatening disease

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by: Rodney Overton, MICHAEL R. SISAK and JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press

Posted: Jan 14, 2022 / 04:34 PM EST / Updated: Jan 14, 2022 / 04:35 PM EST

FILE- Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 4, 2016, during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company's decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. Vyera Pharmaceuticals, a company once owned by Shkreli, will pay up to $40 million to settle allegations that it jacked up the price of a life-saving medication by roughly 4 ,000% after obtaining exclusive rights to the drug. The Federal Trade Commission announced the settlement Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced Friday the state was one of seven who won a nearly $65 million settlement in a case in which a medical treatment pill skyrocketed in price "4,000 percent overnight, to $750 per pill."

The lawsuit filed in 2020 involved price-fixing allegations and was against Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Vyera (formerly Turing) Pharmaceuticals.

The pharmaceutical company makes Daraprim and until recently was the only approved treatment for parasitic disease toxoplasmosis, Stein said in a news release Friday.

The lawsuit said that Vyera, Shkreli, and his business partner, former Vyera CEO Kevin Mulleady, "stifled competition" and that they "exorbitantly" raised the price of the pills "overnight," according to the news release.

Martin Shkreli was referred to in the news release as "Pharma Bro," a nickname he was dubbed by the media.

The judgment from the lawsuit bans Shkreli from ever working in the pharmacy industry and requires him to return $64.6 million in profits from the drug sales.

"Martin Shkreli put profits over people's lives - it was unconscionable and illegal, and I'm pleased he'll never be able to work in the pharmaceutical industry again," Stein said in the news release. "Drug companies and executives should take note: if you illegally raise drug prices for your own financial gain, I will hold you accountable."

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's ruling Friday came several weeks after a seven-day bench trial in December.

Turing Pharmaceuticals — later Vyera — increased the price of Daraprim after obtaining exclusive rights to the decades-old drug in 2015.

Shkreli eventually offered hospitals half off — still amounting to a 2,500 percent increase. But patients normally take most of the weeks-long treatment after returning home, so they and their insurers still faced the $750-a-pill price.

He resigned as Turing's CEO in 2015, a day after he was arrested on securities fraud charges related to hedge funds he ran before getting into the pharmaceuticals industry. He was convicted and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

In December, Stein secured an agreement that will require Vyera to pay up to $40 million and bans Mulleady from nearly all roles in pharmaceutical companies for seven years, the news release said.

Stein was among attorneys general from New York, California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia that joined the Federal Trade Commission in the lawsuit.

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