Onetime pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday before a House Oversight Committee hearing that was primarily focused on Shkreli’s decision to hike the price of a generic medication used to treat cancer and AIDS patients by 5,000 percent. A move that provoked national outrage.
The former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals was unapologetic, rolled his eyes, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and even took to Twitter after it was all over, calling his congressional examiners “imbeciles.”
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC., smiles while flanked by Nancy Retzlaff, chief commercial officer for Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC., during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Shkreli, the typically outspoken 32-year-old declined to answer lawmakers’ questions.
At one point during the hearing, Shkreli’s behavior prompted Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to ask, “Are you even paying attention?”
“It’s not funny, Mr. Shkreli,” Cummings said. “People are dying.”
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., noted that he had “never seen the committee treated with so much contempt.”
Shkreli's lawyer Ben Brafman tried to explain that his client wasn't being disrespectful but that his seemingly rude behavior was the result of nervous energy.
Brafman told Fox News that his client isn't a villain but "a hero."
After walking out of the hearing, Shkreli tweeted, "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."
The hearing focused on major problems with the prescription drug market: price increases, obscure pricing and regulations for generic drug alternatives.
Cummings, who said he pushed for Shkreli's hearing for seven months, said, “There is something about this issue that just gnaws at me 24-7.”
Cummings submitted a dozen letters for the record Thursday from medical associations, consumer groups and coalitions that explain how surging prices for lifesaving medications are preventing some of the nation’s most at risk patients from receiving the treatment they need.
The entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager also faces separate criminal charges for securities fraud in connection with another company he owned.
The lawmakers summoned Shkreli to answer for his decision to drastically hike the price of Daraprim, the only drug approved to treat a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection, from $13.50 to $750 per capsule.
Shkreli pleaded not guilty after the December securities probe conducted by the FBI resulted in his arrest in New York.
Turing’s chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff also appeared before the lawmakers Thursday, along with the interim CEO of Canada's largest drugmaker, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Howard Schiller.
Documents from Valeant and Turing show they have a history of buying and then dramatically raising prices of low-cost but lifesaving drugs administered to patients with life-threatening conditions like heart disease, AIDS and cancer, according to excerpts released by the House panel this week.
The two executives stressed their commitment to making sure that cost does not deter patients from receiving the drugs they need.
"To our knowledge, no patient needs to pay $750 per pill for Daraprim," Retzlaff said.
She told the panel that about two-thirds of patients get it through government assistance programs and receive a discounted price of a penny a pill.
Schiller said in his testimony that Valeant has "heard very clearly" public concern over drug prices and is taking action with initiative like a price rebate program with significant discounts for deals with big hospital purchasing groups.
But the documents presented at the hearing appeared to show that executives at both companies planned to maximize profits while evading public uproar over the price hikes.
The documents include presentations by Turing executives, which revealed that the company planned to turn Daraprim into a $200-million-a-year drug by dramatically increasing its price as early as last May.
Shkreli said in an email to one contact: "We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us."
Shortly afterwards, the company warned in an internal memo that advocates for HIV patients might react negatively to the price hike.
According to the memo, Valeant used patient assistance programs to distract attention and justify the price increase.
It's unclear what the future looks like for the disgraced CEO, but after Thursday's hearing, folks on Twitter seemed to have fun with his bold and brazen behavior:
Who's do u like more— Wu-Tang Financial (@Wu_Tang_Finance) February 4, 2016
As for Shkreli, he didn't appear to be concerned either. In fact, he seemed to have treated the whole event as a joke:
(H/T: Fox News)