Price-gouging “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli took part in an “ask me anything” session Sunday on Reddit — and the results were just as disastrous as you would expect.
The 32-year-old Shkreli has become one of the most hated men in the U.S. in the month since news broke that he had purchased the rights to a drug used to treat AIDS and parasitic infections and jacked up the price overnight from $13.50 per pill to $750.
The founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals admitted that he and his public relations team had handled the controversy “poorly” — and a Reddit user asked whether the “awful” question-and-answer session was his PR team’s idea or whether he created the “train wreck” himself.
“This is 99% statement and 1% question,” Shkreli sniffed. “I think that violates the terms of service.”
The former hedge fund manager claimed he had “talked to many HIV and AIDS patients,” and he insisted that “none of them are hurt or will be hurt by the higher price.”
One user accused Shkreli of using “sock puppets” to pose softball questions, a common complaint during “ask me anything” sessions with famous individuals, although the social media user pointed out that more than two dozen newly created accounts — including one called Shkrelidelic — had lobbed inane questions.
Shkreli expressed regret that he had been a “flippant jackass” instead of carefully explaining the price increase, although he told another Reddit user that he didn’t understand how raising the price to $20, for example, might have been more reasonable than a 5,500 percent hike.
“I believe drugs should be priced relative to the value they confer,” he said.
The pharmaceutical company CEO got absolutely destroyed by a physician who exposed his limited understanding of how the drugs he sells actually work.
“Medically speaking I haven’t yet heard of why your drug’s worth $749 more than my pyrimethamine,” said a Reddit user identified himself as Anandya, a doctor who works for a charity. “Does it improve on the nausea, vomiting and (diarrhea)? Does it have a folate sparing effect? Can it be used in pregnant women and in epileptics?”
“No one’s been able to tell me what your upgrade is or how it works or even if it is a cost saving upgrade,” the physician said, asking what changes or improvements his company had made to the drug to warrant the price increase.
Shkreli admitted his company sold the same form of pyrimethamine, or Daraprim, that had been on the market for 70 years — although he expressed hope that his company could develop a more potent form of the drug that did not hinder the body’s production of folic acid.
“The mechanism of the drug is folate inhibition,” Anandya reminded the CEO, adding that what Shkreli had proposed might not even be scientifically possible.
“The entire mechanism of the drug is to stop the production of folic acid in the first place and the bulk of its side effects are tied up with that,” Anandya said. “It’s kind of counter-intuitive to say that you are going to solve this problem when it’s not a problem as much as the whole raison d’etre of the drug. This I find is the main problem with your plan. That the solution is not worth $749.”
“One cannot suggest such a (monstrous) increase in the price of a drug which by your own admission does nothing better while telling me your plan is to (because this is the only way it would work) create an entirely new drug not related to pyrimethamine at all because it would require a new structure,” the physician continued. “Which in turn would give you a big hassle since you would require testing and FDA approval from scratch anyway. I think your plan is flawed.”
Other Reddit users stood back and applauded in awe, saying that’s what happens when “overblown salespeople run into people who actually know what they’re talking about.”
“Dude you just got schooled by a real f*cking doctor,” said Reddit user ixora7. “Go f*ck yourself with your pills.”
Update: The Raw Story spoke to Anandya and verified that he is a bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery who works at a charity hospital in India.