Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing on the company’s drug pricing policy.
Martin Shkreli invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination, but sniggered through questions from representatives.
Congress is investigating Turing’s 5,000% price increase of Daraprim, a drug used by many AIDS patients.
Martin Shkreli asked Congress for immunity last month in return for his testimony.
The Federal Trade Commission is also investigating whether Turing violated anti-trust laws when it raised the price of Daraprim.
Turing purchased the patent to Daraprim for $50 million in July 2015, but the company and its former CEO rose to public attention in August when price of a single dose jumped from $13.50 to $750.
Politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton criticized Turing for the increase. Hillary Clinton called Turing’s move “outrageous” and called it “price gouging”.
In response, Martin Shkreli said the media and politicians did not understand the pharmaceutical industry.
The industry’s main lobbying group, PhRMA, also spoke out against Turing’s actions. In a statement PhRMA said that Turing “does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies”.
Other members of the pharmaceutical industry, including the head of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, were also asked to testify.
Valeant increased the price of Isuprel, a drug used to treat slow heart rate by 500% and Nitropress used to treat hypertension by 200%.
After the hearing Martin Shkreli’s attorney told reporters that his client, a former hedge fund manager, was a “brilliant scientist who had saved many lives.”
Martin Shkreli who is active on social media had already tweeted he would not answer questions.
Before the hearing, Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings called Martin Shkreli’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination a “juvenile tactic”.
At the hearing, Representative Elijah Cummings said: “You can go down as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives, or you can change the system.”
After the hearing, Martin Shkreli returned to Twitter to call the members of Congress “imbeciles”.
Turing’s chief commercial officer Nancy Retzlaff did answer Congress’s questions.
Nancy Retzlaff told the House hearing that Turing acquired Daraprim because it was “priced far below its market value” and that the company planned to invest the profits from the price hike into research and development of new treatments.
Martin Shkreli stepped down as Turing CEO in December 2015 following his arrest on separate charges.
The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have charged Martin Sjkreli with defrauding investors at a company he previously ran and a hedge fund he managed.
Ex-Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has asked for immunity in order to testify before a congressional hearing.
Martin Shkreli was subpoenaed to testify about a 5,000% price increase for a drug.
His lawyer asked for immunity because of an ongoing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into the price rise, Reuters reported.
Martin Shkreli stepped down as Turing’s head following his arrest for investor fraud at a different company.
In a letter seen by Reuters, Martin Shkreli’s lawyer said the former CEO would “gladly cooperate” and produce documents at the hearing on January 26 if he is given immunity.
On January 21, Martin Shkreli said he would remain silent if forced to appear at the congressional hearing.
The FTC is allegedly investigating anti-trust violation by Turing Pharmaceuticals when it raised the price of Daraprim.
The drug is used to treat toxoplasmosis, an infection common in people with AIDS.
Daraprim was invented in the 1950s and acquired by Turing for $50 million in 2015. In August, Turing increased Daraprim’s price from $13.50 to $750 per dose.
In December, Martin Shkreli was arrested in New York on charges he defrauded investors as the head of drug company Retrophin and as a fund manager at the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management.
He has denied the charges and was released on bail pending the trial.
Members of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee have argued Martin Shkreli cannot invoke his right against self-incrimination because his arrest is separate from the congressional investigations.
They have responded angrily to Martin Shkreli’s attempts to avoid testifying.
On January 21, Congressman Elijah Cummings, a committee member, said: “If he plans on trying to use his own intentional inaction as some kind of bogus excuse for not showing up at Tuesday’s hearing, people will see right through such a juvenile tactic.”
Martin Shkreli has mocked the subpoena on social media by tweeting a picture of the letter sent by the Oversight Committee with the comment: “Found this letter. Looks important.”
Turing Pharmaceuticals has announced it will lower the price of Daraprim after faced a backlash following raising the price of the drug used by AIDS patients by over 5,000%.
Turing CEO Martin Shkreli told reporters he would drop the price following the outcry, but did not say by how much.
Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim in August 2015.
The company then raised the cost of the drug, which treats a parasitic infection, from $13.50 to $750.
Amid criticism from medical groups – one called the cost “unjustifiable” – Martin Shkreli on September 21 defended the increase, saying the profits would help research new treatments.
Martin Shkreli accused critics of not understanding the pharmaceutical industry.
He has now told ABC News: “We’ve agreed to lower the price on Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit.”
Earlier in the day, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s main lobbying group, tweeted that Turing “does not represent the values of PhRMA member companies”.
Agreeing a price for any drug is a tricky business.
In the US, the buyers are private insurance companies as well as the government through the Medicare and Medicaid system. It’s a market and prices can go up and down, depending on what people are willing to pay.
In recent years, pharmaceutical research and development has slowed and companies have to think carefully about what they invest in. Blockbusters such as Viagra pull in money, but orphan drugs for rare diseases can be less attractive. Not many patients use them, and so turning a profit may be difficult.
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