Drug exec Martin Shkreli appears at Capitol Hill, angers lawmakers

Former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli appears before a House Oversight Committee.

Former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli appears before a House Oversight Committee. (2/4/16)

MORRISTOWN - Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, appeared before a House Oversight Committee Thursday.

The 32-year-old became widely known and scorned for hiking the price of a long-established and potentially lifesaving drug by more than 5,000 percent. He is also facing securities fraud charges involving another biotech company he once ran.

Throughout the committee hearing, Shkreli appeared to be laughing and fidgeting. He also pleaded the Fifth Amendment throughout and refused to answer many questions.

His attorney said Shkreli’s body language wasn't disrespect; just nervous energy.

After the hearing, however, Shkreli put out a Tweet that said, "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."

The drug that Shkreli’s company increased the price of is Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, which some AIDS patients can get.

HIV and AIDS advocates say that Shkreli did not show regard for the people who take the drug.

Laurie Litt, of the Family Health Center in Morristown, says that the center treated 230 people with HIV and AIDS last year. Of that group, she said 20 percent tested positive for toxoplasmosis and two people needed Daraprim.

“There's the potential that up to 20 percent may need it at some point,” she says.

Seton Hall marketing professor Adam Warner says that there isn’t much that the federal government can do to regulate drug prices.  He says that low prices are determined by competition and insurance.

"It's roughly in the neighborhood of $1 billion to do all the studies and hope to get [a drug] to market,” he says. “And pharmaceutical companies, while they're doing a lot of good, they're also a for-profit business."

Warner says that the average annual price jumps for drugs are in the 4-to-10 percent range.  Not 5,000 percent.

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