When pharma CEO Martin Shkreli learned that his company would be buying an anti-parasitic drug, needed by many HIV and cancer patients to survive, he only saw dollar signs, newly released documents reveal.
“Nice work as usual,” Shkreli wrote on May 27, 2015, according to ABC News. “$1 bn here we come.”
After Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased the drug Daraprim, Shkreli raised its cost by 5,000 percent, and the drug went from $13.50 to $750 overnight, the New York Daily News recounted. Three months after the purchase, Martin boasted about the profit this hike would bring, to the tune of $375 million a year, which he called “a very handsome investment for all of us.”
The House Oversight Committee is investigating Martin Shkreli company and Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which has also been accused of hiking drug prices.
Shkreli had been subpoenaed to appear at a hearing before Congress this week (which took place Thursday), and he has pleaded the Fifth, the New York Daily News reported.
Former pharma CEO Martin Shkreli pleads the fifth in House hearing repeatedly when asked questions by House panel. pic.twitter.com/76Lg63OC7a— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) February 4, 2016
Although Martin never worked for fellow pharm company Valeant, they stand accused of a similar business model as the hated CEO to hike drug prices as well.
As part of this investigation, Turing handed 250,000 pages of documents over to Congress, and excerpts of these were released in a series of memos by the investigating committee ahead of his hearing. The report accuses the “pharma-bro” of buying Daraprim “for the purpose of increasing the price dramatically.”
The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, said the documents only reveal what most Americans who rely on prescription drugs already know.
“These new documents provide a rare, inside look at the motivations and tactics of drug company executives. They confirm what Americans across the country have experienced firsthand for years—that many drug companies are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation.”
Before Shkreli’s hike, Daraprim wasn’t too well known. It treats parasitic infections in people with AIDS, cancer, and other immune system disorders. And Martin’s company knew that upping its cost would have consequences.
The documents and report reveal that Martin understood the AIDS community would be angry at the price hike and revealed conversations in which he and colleagues brainstormed ways to quiet their protests.
As the world grew to hate Martin Shkreli for the price hike, consultants advised him to lower the price of Daraprim, an act that would redirect the blame for the increase on the “byzantine nature of drug pricing and health care” and on the insurance companies.
By this point, hospitals and patients both were speaking up, telling Martin and Turing that the new price was unaffordable and to please lower the price. Shkreli promised to listen but never did, and he refused to step down as CEO.
But the company didn’t seem too worried. Martin was told that the number of people who relied on Daraprim to live was too small a number to cause much trouble or lobby to get the price lowered. But AIDS activities, on the other hand, were “highly organized, sensitive, and action-oriented,” the company stated in an internal presentation.
Turing and Shkreli resolved to pass the blame and wait for AIDS activists and patients to give up the fight.
“If we can get HIV/AIDS activists to ‘sit this out,’ we come out way ahead,” a consultant told Shkreli in September.
Martin Shkreli finally left the company in December, but only because he had been arrested for another crime — an alleged Ponzi scheme set up in one of his old companies. He resigned days after his arrest, and now, Turing is laying people off.
[Photo By Seth Wenig/AP]