America’s favorite former pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli, is smirking again, but this time it was during a US Congress hearing in which lawmakers questioned him about his strategy to severely inflate drug prices.
Actually, he laughed in their faces.
Of course, this is not really unexpected behavior from the 32-year-old Shkreli who sparked major outrage just last year among not only patients who could not afford the exorbitant prices, but also medical societies, and even current Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. You may recall, his company—Turing Pharmaceuticals—increased the price of a 62-year-old medicine, Daraprim, to $750 a pill.
That is an increase of 5,000 percent over the previous price of $1, for the lifesaving medicine which is the only drug approved—and therefore the only drug available—to treat a deadly parasitic infection. Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the drug from Impax Laboratories, in August last year, for $55 million. Immediately following, Shkreli emailed one business contact saying “We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us.”
Accordingly, this hearing among US Congress was to specifically address his decision to make such a move. Not surprisingly, the former hedge fund manager pleaded not guilty after his arrest in December; and the brash entrepreneur has been out of jail on $5 million bail since then.
Shkreli seemed “business-as-usual” in his sport coat and button-down shirt as he appeared in the courtroom alongside the Valeant Pharmaceuticals interim CEO (and Turing chief commercial officer), a company who has also been known to buy a drug and then dramatically increase its price, even for lower-cost drugs that treat life-threatening conditions.
Court documents demonstrate that the two companies planned to collude for maximum profits while cooperating in fending off any negative publicity over the dramatic price hikes.
And, true-to-form, Shkreli denied to respond or comment on any and all testimony made at the hearing. Instead, he simply stated, “I intend to follow the advice of my counsel,” also tweeting later, “[Its] Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent people in our government.”
Sometimes one thinks that perhaps this is all just some twisted marketing scheme to remain in public view. If this is the case, though, Shkreli’s team must have something big up their collective sleeve if they plan to get out of this untouched.