Martin Shkreli could not stop laughing during his testimony to Congress
The interim chief executive of pharmaceutical company Valeant and infamous former Turing CEO Martin Shkreli just faced Congress.
Legislators wanted them to answer for dramatic drug price increases that impact the lives of Americans.
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Shkreli infamously caught national attention when his company purchased a life-saving drug called Daraprim and then raised the price over 5,000%.
Wall Street was closely watching Valeant interim CEO Howard Schiller.
The company's stock was a darling until accusations of malfeasance from a short seller and government scrutiny over pricing chopped off a quarter of its stock price last year.
Not a few bad apples
At the hearing, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) opened by saying that "it's not funny, people are dying" because drug companies "jacked up" prices.
"These tactics are not limited to a few 'bad apples.' They are prominent throughout the entire industry. Lannett, Pfizer, Horizon, Teva, Amphastar, Allergan, Endo—all of these companies have taken significant price increases on their drugs," he said.
See photos of Martin Shkreli
He also submitted letters from the American Federation of Teachers, Human Rights Campaign, Consumer Union and more, voicing their concern about drug pricing practices. Cummings also discussed regulation against "price gouging."
After Cummings spoke, Valeant interim CEO Howard Schiller took the hot seat. Schiller's prepared remarks are here.
He has a few points:
- Valeant paid outside consultant to determine price.
- Valeant passes costs onto hospitals, not patients, and actually lowers costs for patients through its assistance programs.
- The FDA should speed up the approval process for generic drugs.
And then there's this interesting point [emphasis ours]:
"When these drugs are priced to reflect more closely their true clinical value, the more accurate price signals incentivize generic competition and innovation. Higher prices draw generic competitors into the market, which in turn tends to put significant downward pressure on prices," he said.
Shkreli, as expected, plead the fifth and seemed to suppress laughter during his testimony. Shkreli's chief commercial officer, also testified.
He was asked if he had done anything wrong, and was asked about comments he'd made in the past.
Congressman Trey Gowdy tried to tell Shkreli that there were answers he could give that would not subject him to incrimination, and that they could talk about something else. That included his Wu Tang Clan album.
"Is that the name of the group?", he asked.
"I intend to follow the advice of my council, and not yours," Shkreli responded.
Shkreli continued to look away and smile. At points it looked like he was about to burst out laughing.
"You can look away if you like, but you should see the faces of the people you effect," said Cummings. "You are known as one of the bad boys of pharma."
There are "so many people that could use your help."
Cummings ended by telling Shrekli "God bless you," and asking him to be escorted out.
Outside of Congress, Shkreli's lawyer said that his client had been unfairly singled out. Eventually, he said, people would come to realize that Shkreli is "not a villain, but a hero."
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