PRESS RELEASE: Top ten healthcare profiteers named in 2021 Shkreli Awards

From a $350 suppository to an unproven drug that could cost Medicare billions, here are this year’s worst examples of greed and dysfunction in health care.

Boston, MA – When we think of innovation in health care, we expect it to be focused on medical treatments and technologies that save lives. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes innovation means finding creative ways to squeeze money from the system and the patients it serves. 

The Shkreli Awards, named for infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, are awarded each year to perpetrators of the ten most egregious examples of profiteering and dysfunction in health care. This is the fifth year that the Lown Institute, a health care think tank, has given out the awards, along with the help of a panel of judges made up of clinicians, health policy experts, journalists, and patient advocates.

“The pandemic has not slowed the brazen chase for profits by many in the healthcare industry,” said Dr. Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute. “By displaying all of this shocking material in one place, we hope to build demand for a better system.”

2021 Lown Institute Shkreli Award Winners

  1. FDA fast-tracks unproven drug, defying its own advisory committee and putting millions of older Americans at risk
  2. Family at heart of opioid crisis offered immunity despite harm to millions and deaths of hundreds of thousands
  3. Catholic hospital system with mission to serve the “poor and vulnerable” creates billion dollar private equity fund while cutting services at safety nets
  4. Drug manufacturer prices Covid-19 pill developed with federal funds at 40x its production cost
  5. Hospital system files 19,000 lawsuits for unpaid medical bills, while receiving $700 million in Covid bailout funds
  6. Hospital claims Medicaid doesn’t count as insurance, raids accident victims’ settlements instead
  7. Woman leaves ER after waiting seven hours without being seen, hospital charges $700
  8. Hospital steers patients to ER for Covid-19 testing, inflating bill as much as 30 times
  9. Pharma companies use “charitable giving” to increase sales of their overpriced drugs
  10. Suppository users experience discomfort of 5000% price increase

A complete list of winners with descriptions, sources, and judges’ comments is available at the Lown Institute website.


Join leaders of the Lown Institute and panelists Will Flanary (aka Dr. Glaucomflecken) and Gregg Gonsalves, epidemiologist and AIDS activist, on Tuesday, January 11 at 1 p.m. ET for a countdown and discussion of this year’s winners.

About the Lown Institute

Founded in 1973 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Bernard Lown, MD, developer of the defibrillator and cardioverter, the Lown Institute believes that a radically better system of health is possible and generates bold ideas towards that goal. The Lown Hospitals Index, a signature project of the Institute, is the first ranking to assess the social responsibility of U.S. hospitals by applying measures never used before like racial inclusivity, avoidance of overuse, and pay equity.


Aaron Toleos, Lown Institute, (978) 821-4620,