Maryland Democrat wants Congress to grill ‘pharma bro’ on drug profits: ‘I think it’s criminal’
A Maryland Democrat wants the most hated man on the Internet to testify before Congress about hiking up the cost of an AIDS drug by more than 5,000 percent.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, has requested a hearing for next week to question former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
The 32-year-old Shkreli has incited widespread fury by buying Daraprim, a drug used to treat life-threatening parasitic infections in AIDS patients and infants, and raising the price from $13.50 a pill to $750.
“There is something awfully wrong with this picture,” Cummings told WBAL-TV.
Cummings and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, wrote Shkreli a letter Monday to ask the CEO about the price increase and limits on Daraprim’s distribution.
Shkreli announced Tuesday that his company would back the cost of the drug back down to its original price over the next few weeks, and the pharmaceutical executive admitted his decision was a reaction to the controversy.
Cummings said he asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to schedule a hearing to question Shkreli, who is being sued for $65 million by Retrophin, another biotech company he founded shortly before the Affordable Care Act passed.
“I want drug companies to make a decent profit, but you don’t go up 5,000 times overnight,” Cummings said.
Turing has extended co-pay assistance to individual patients who rely on Daraprim, but the federal government and private insurance companies will be stuck paying the difference — which they will likely then pass on to taxpayers and consumers.
Shkreli, who describes himself as a “self-trained biologist,” dramatically changed his position on biotech companies during the months-long debate over Obamacare.
He had previously bet, as the head of MSMB Capital Management, on biotech stocks to fail, but he started up his own pharmaceutical company shortly before the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health care reform law in December 2009.
That company, Retrophin, bought the rights to a “decades-old” kidney medication in 2014 and raised the price to more than 20 times its original cost.
Watch this interview with Cummings posted online by WBAL-TV: