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On social media, Martin Shkreli's arrest draws cheers

Controversial Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has been arrested on charges of securities fraud.
Martin Shkreli, controversial drug CEO, arrested for fraud 02:32

For many social media users, Martin Shkreli's arrest Thursday on charges of securities fraud is cause for holiday cheer.

Tweets featuring Shkreli's "perp walk" -- wearing a grey hoodie and his hands cuffed behind his back -- proliferated, as well as comments such as the one from actress Debra Messing's succinct "Karmas a bitch" and others giving thanks for an early holiday gift.

For those who still haven't heard his name, "the most hated man in America" is the hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical CEO who became a byword for greed in September when he raised the price of a six-decade-old medication by more than 5,000 percent, even though there were no changes in its composition.

For some patients who relied on the life-saving medication, called Daraprim, the hike was a financial disaster, and the move served as a lightening rod over the pharmaceutical industry's trend toward pushing drug prices ever higher.

It's important to note that Shkreli's arrest isn't tied to his actions as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that bought Daraprim in August. Instead, Shkreli's arrest relates to allegationsthat he illegally used stock from a biotech company he founded to pay off debts from another business.

Turing CEO will keep high Daraprim price for individuals 02:27

Not that it matters to the Twitterverse, given the widespread feeling that Shkreli is receiving his just desserts.

"Martin Shkreli made himself into a cartoon villain, and the poster boy of pharmaceutical greed," said Luke Timmerman, the editor and founder of The Timmerman Report, a biotech industry subscription publication. "Just about everybody I know in the general public -- aunts and uncles, mom and dad, the security guard at my building -- knows who he is and they think he's a bad guy. They don't know anyone who runs a major pharmaceutical company, so this guy in just three to four months catapulted himself into a a household name."

Shkreli's arrest prompted a few different, but equally gleeful, reactions. Some social media users simply rejoiced, while others joked about the price gouging that Shkreli might face during his tangle with the legal system.

Adding to the feeling of schadenfreude is the unusual role that Shkreli inhabits. Along with leading a drug company, he straddles another industry that Americans associate with runaway greed: Wall Street. Only 9 percent of Americans have a "very positive" view of the banking sector, down from 12 percent in 2001, according to Gallup.

Drugmakers, for their part, also dislike Shkreli, but for a different reason than consumers: Pharmaceutical executives fear the spotlight his actions have shined on the industry, Timmerman said.

"There is so much fear and loathing aimed at Martin because his outrageous action could be the thing that finally brings legislative price controls to the pharmaceutical industry," he added.

And despite Shkreli's legal problems, the pharmaceutical sector "still needs to look at itself in the mirror and reassess what fair pricing is," Timmerman said. "This issue is not going away."

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