Martin Shkreli refuses to testify, still infuriates with a smile

WASHINGTON -- Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli refused to testify Thursday in an appearance before U.S. lawmakers over severe hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired, yet even without answering questions, managed to leave them infuriated.

See Full Article

Shkreli appeared to smirk throughout his hour-long appearance, and moments afterward, insulting tweets began to appear under his official account calling the lawmakers "imbeciles."

Shkreli, widely scorned for hiking the price of a long-established and potentially lifesaving drug by more than 5,000 per cent, exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he went before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Four times the brash entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager -- who has been unapologetic about the price hikes, intoned before the committee, "On the advice of counsel I invoke my Fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question."

Lawmakers erupted in fury. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, told the 32-year-old Shkreli to wipe the smirk off his face.

"I call this money blood money ... coming out of the pockets of hardworking Americans," he said, as Shkreli sat through the lecture. "I know you are smiling, but I am very serious, sir," Cummings said. "I truly believe you can become a force of tremendous good. All I ask is that you reflect on it. No, I don't ask, I beg that you reflect on it. "

Shkreli was dismissed less than an hour into the hearing, but not before Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. shouted down a request by Shkreli's attorney to speak. Lawmakers, instead, took turns denouncing his conduct and attitude.

Minutes after Shkreli walked out of the room on his official Twitter account appeared the message, "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."

Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.

— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) February 4, 2016

It could not immediately be confirmed if those tweets were written by Shkreli.

Cummings, attributing them to Shkreli, boiled over. "There are very real issues for people with compromised immune systems," he thundered as he asked Turing executive Nancy Retzlaff to interpret the messages on Shkreli's Twitter account.

Shkreli faces separate criminal charges of securities fraud in connection with another drug company he owned

The lawmakers had summoned him to answer for the decision that made him infamous: raising the price for Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection.

Shkreli, who pleaded not guilty after his arrest in December in New York, has been out on $5 million bail. He walked into the packed hearing room well before the session began and met the crush of cameras. Even a few members of the House panel were swept up in the curiosity and snapped Shkreli's photo on their cellphones.

Also appearing before the lawmakers was Turing's chief commercial officer and the interim CEO of Canada's largest drugmaker, Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Documents from Valeant and Turing show they have made a practice of buying and then dramatically raising prices for, low-cost drugs given to patients with life-threatening conditions including heart disease, AIDS and cancer, according to excerpts released this week by the House panel.

The two companies' executives insisted they were committed to ensuring that cost isn't a deterrent for patients who need the drugs.

With Shkreli mum, it was up to Retzlaff to defend the Daraprim price rise. She said about 3,000 people are treated by Daraprim, and only 25 per cent are covered by commercial insurance. She added that the overall impact of the drug on the budget of commercial health plans "is very, very small."

Documents show how executives at both companies planned to maximize profits while fending off negative publicity over the price hikes.

Presentations by Turing executives, part of the trove of documents obtained by the panel., show that as early as last May, the company planned to turn Daraprim into a $200-million-a-year drug by dramatically increasing its price. Turing bought the 60-year-old drug from Impax Laboratories in August for $55 million and swiftly raised its price.

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."

But anticipating a possible backlash, the company warned in an internal memo that advocates for HIV patients might react to the price hike.

Valeant likewise identified revenue goals first and then used drug prices to reach them, committee staff said in a memo. It said Valeant believed it could repeatedly raise the prices of Nitropress and Isuprel without repercussions because they're administered by hospitals, which are less price-sensitive than consumers.

Valeant used patient assistance programs to distract attention and justify its price hikes, according to the memo.

AP Business Writer Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Ford investing $1.2B in 3 Michigan plants, adding 130 jobs

    Economic CTV News
    DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is investing US$1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities, including an engine plant where it plans to add 130 jobs. U.S. President Donald Trump applauded the move in an early morning tweet. Source
  • Purolator stops accepting new shipments as strike deadline nears

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO - Purolator stopped accepting shipments today ahead of a strike deadline this afternoon issued by the union representing some of the courier's employees. Teamsters Canada issued the 72-hour strike notice Sunday after its members voted to reject Purolator's final offer. Source
  • Uber pulls out of Denmark citing tougher cab standards

    Economic CTV News
    COPENHAGEN -- The Danish branch of the ride-sharing service Uber said Tuesday it is shutting down its services in Denmark due to a proposed law that toughens standards for cabs. Uber's spokesman in Denmark, Kristian Agerbo, said Uber which has been in Denmark since 2014, "must take the consequence" of the proposal demanding cabs and cars for hire must have seat occupancy sensors and meters. Source
  • Costs of protectionism 'steep,' Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz used a history lesson Tuesday to make a case for a policy mix frequently promoted by the federal government -- an openness to more foreign investment, immigration and free trade. Source
  • 'Openness and economic progress go hand in hand,' Poloz says in Oshawa speech

    Economic CBC News
    In a speech to university students on Tuesday, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz argued that free trade, foreign investment and immigration all played critical roles in building Canada's economy throughout history. "When trade barriers are falling, when people are coming to our shores and when investment is rising, Canadians prosper. Source
  • New 12-sided British pound coin enters circulation

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- A new 12-sided British pound coin is entering circulation amid concern that the round pound was too easy to counterfeit. The new coin introduced Tuesday is intended to be the most secure in the world, featuring a hologram that changes from the pound symbol to the numeral one. Source
  • Trump takes credit as Ford set to announce spending on U.S. plants

    Economic CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump touted Ford Motor Co.'s expected announcement Tuesday about investments and jobs at its U.S. plants, saying the automaker would be making a major investment in three Michigan facilities. Big announcement by Ford today. Source
  • Waze gets into the order-ahead business with Dunkin' Donuts

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Waze's traffic navigation app already shows ads prodding drivers to swing by fast-food joints like Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell. Now it's adding a new item to its menu -- the ability to place orders at some shops. Source
  • Home Capital fires CEO Martin Reid

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Home Capital Group Inc. (TSX: HCG) has terminated its president and CEO Martin K. Reid, effective immediately. The Toronto-based mortgage lender made the announcement after markets closed Monday. "Home Capital requires leadership that can bring to bear a renewed operational discipline, emphasis on risk management and controls, and focus on improving performance," Kevin P.D. Source
  • Oil ready to flow through Dakota Access pipeline under lake

    Economic CTV News
    The Dakota Access pipeline developer said it has placed oil in the pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota and that it's preparing to put the line into service. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners made the announcement Monday in a brief court filing with the U.S. Source