WASHINGTON (AP) — The former top lawyer for Turing Pharmaceuticals said Thursday that he and other executives warned Martin Shkreli against the drastic price hike that triggered a national backlash against the company and its then-32-year-old CEO.
The Senate Committee on Aging subpoenaed current and former Turing executives to appear Thursday and explain the fiftyfold price hike of Daraprim, a drug used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection. Lawmakers struggled to describe the company’s behavior, which Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., called “pure evil.”
Turing’s former general counsel, Howard Dorfman, told committee members that the price hike “was certainly unjustified.”
… but not illegal.
… Last month House lawmakers subpoenaed Shkreli to appear at a similar hearing, though he declined to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right.
Shkreli, who resigned as CEO in December, is facing charges of securities fraud unrelated to Turing. He did not appear at the hearing.
Instead, lawmakers pressed two current Turing executives to justify their business model.
“What improvements did Turing make to Daraprim to justify raising the price from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill?” asked Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the committee.
Interim CEO Ronald Tilles acknowledged that the currently sold pill is the same drug that has been available since the 1950s. It sells overseas for about $2.
Many pharmaceutical companies increase prices annually as a matter of doing business. But the staggering size of recent increases by Turing, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and several other drugmakers turned drug pricing into a national issue, reverberating from late night TV to the presidential campaign trail.
The tactics seemed to confirm the public’s worst fears about pharmaceutical companies: that they are more Wall Street-driven investment vehicles than actual makers of medicines.
Shkreli’s prior work as a hedge fund manager ultimately landed him in court.
This is capitalism gone wild, where minimum wagers are laughed at by the ruling class.