'Pharma Bro' is back — with a new health care product loaded with ethical red flags
"Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli (Wikimedia Commons)

Martin Shkreli, the infamous former pharmaceutical executive Raw Story originally dubbed "Pharma Bro," is back on the scene — and according to The Daily Beast, he has a new venture: an artificial intelligence "health care assistant" known as DrGupta.ai, which is rife with potential legal and ethical problems.

Shkreli, who became an internet villain after massively hiking the price of an antiparasitic drug used by HIV sufferers, was later convicted of securities fraud, served a prison sentence, and was banned from the pharmaceutical industry.

But that hasn't stopped him from attempting to nose his way into health care, the report said.

"Currently, Dr. Gupta (the logo highlights the letters G, P, and T, making the intended wordplay slightly less vexing) is a barebones interface, dropping the user directly into a conversation with the AI chatbot," reported Maddie Bender. "According to Shkreli’s post, it’s powered by a combination of GPT-3.5 and 4, which are large language models created by tech company OpenAI. Users receive five free messages with the chatbot monthly and five more if they sign up with an email. For $20 a month, users send unlimited messages to the chatbot."

There are a number of potential legal issues with this arrangement, noted the report. For one thing, "Guardrails like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) exist to regulate patient-physician relationships, and a person acts outside of that relationship when they consult a chatbot for medical advice. This leaves the responsibilities of the platform to its users in a legal gray area, particularly when serious issues arise" — making it unclear, for instance, who would be liable if the bot gives incorrect medical advice.

In anticipation of these issues, the report noted, the chatbot comes loaded full of disclaimers that it is not a physician.