Today, the public got a disturbing window into the actions of former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, a sniggering, contemptuous former hedge fund manager who led a scheme to turn a profit off of price hikes on a crucial life-saving drug. At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this morning, Shkreli appeared alongside Turing CCO Nancy Retzlaff who, astonishingly, testified in defense of their unconscionable 5,000 percent price hike on the life-saving drug Daraprim.
During the hearing, Shkreli repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, leaving the dirty work to Retzlaff, who, after claiming the company was losing money, acknowledged six-figure pay raises, and a $23,000 company party on a yacht. With fireworks.
“Shkreli’s despicable effort to make money off sick, vulnerable patients was on full display for the world to see this morning,” said Chad Griffin, President of HRC, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization. “He grinned, smirked, and pleaded the fifth through a hearing about price gouging and putting life-saving drugs out of reach for the most vulnerable patients. With lives literally hanging in the balance, Congress must act to condemn these practices and protect people over profits. And we again call on Turing CEO Ron Tilles to restore Daraprim to its original price.”
Immediately following his appearance before the committee — during which he refused to provide answers — Shkreli tweeted, “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”
In case you missed it, see highlights from HRC’s live-tweets of today’s hearing here.
Daraprim is a crucial treatment for many pregnant women and people living with HIV. Last fall, then-Turing CEO Shkreli acquired the rights to the drug and subsequently raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per dose overnight.
In internal Turing documents released by the House committee earlier this week, Shkreli, who resigned from the company after coming under investigation for securities fraud, gloats in an email about the impending purchase of Daraprim as a financial windfall. “$1 [billion], here we come,” he wrote. He also boasted about potential enormous gains from the planned per-pill price hike, writing that it could generate $375 million in profits annually for at least three years.
Shkreli resigned from Turing in December, a day after he was arrested by the FBI amid a federal investigation involving his former hedge fund and another pharmaceutical company he previously headed.
In an open appeal to Turing in October, HRC joined more than 160 organizations in calling on Shkreli to immediately act on his promise to lower the price on Daraprim. And HRC continues its call to get to the bottom of whether Turing and Shkreli violated antitrust laws by limiting distribution of a drug that is essential to the lives of medically vulnerable people, including those living with HIV and pregnant women.
Last fall, at HRC’s urging, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating whether Turing Pharmaceuticals may have violated antitrust laws by limiting distribution of the drug. HRC also sent letters to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, seeking an investigation into the unconscionable action of Turing Pharmaceuticals.