Pharma Bro (8/10)
by Tony Medley
This is the story of Martin Shkerli, who seemingly lobbied to earn the title
of the most hated man in America. He bought a pharmaceutical company that
made Pyrimethamine Daraprim, the only treatment for Toxoplasmosis: a
parasitic disease that kills lots of AIDS patients. But it was treatable
with this drug and had been selling for $30/bottle of 48 pills.
Shkerli, a 38-year-old hedge fund manager, “promising financial savant,” and
pharmaceutical opportunist got control and raised the price of it from
$13.50 per pill to $750 per pill overnight in 2015, depriving those
afflicted of this life saving drug and earning the title.
Hedge spent a year following Shkreli, visiting the city of Shkerl, Albania,
to learn about Martin’s heritage, and background, listening to his live
stream, some of which is shown here in clips, and visiting hospitals
interviewing Daraprim patients.
Shkerli got bad publicity and did his best to make it worse. His live stream
where anyone could contact him and speak with him and his supercilious
contumely (but I repeat myself) was disgusting, to say the least. It is
mindful of Martin Amis’ comment on Gore Vidal, “If there is a key to (his)
public character it has something to do with his towering immodesty, the
superbity of his self-love.”
The film also covers his purchase of the Wu Tang album, which was notorious
from the outset. In addition, Hedge interviewed many others for the film,
including his attorney, Ben Brafman, his friend, Billy the Fridge, and
political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos.
In the end, though, Shkerli broke no laws in his handling of Daraprim. Like
Al Capone, his downfall came through prosecution for something else, in his
case securities fraud, not for his infamous pharmaceutical actions.
The film is a fascinating study of a narcissist who was too smart (in his
mind’s eye) for his own good.
Tony Medley is an attorney, columnist, and MPAA-accredited film critic whose reviews and articles may be read in several newspapers and at rottentomatoes.com, CWEB.com, Movie Review Query Engine (mrqe.com), and at www.tonymedley.com. His most recent book is “Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss,” the most complete “all in one” book for beginners and also for advanced players. He is also the author of three books, UCLA Basketball: The Real Story, Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, the first book ever written on the interview for the interviewee and still in print after more than thirty years, having sold over a half million copies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge, which has sold over 100,000 copies. He is an American Contract Bridge League Silver Life Master and an ACBL accredited director.