Martin Shkreli Says ‘Of Course’ He’d Raise Drug Price AgainBy
Only regret is not fully predicting blowback to strategy
Turing raised Daraprim more than 50-fold under Shkreli
Outspoken former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli said the national outrage over drug pricing was blown out of proportion and heightened by the U.S. presidential election, although he conceded he could have predicted the blowback better.
“In terms of regret, maybe not seeing that as acutely would’ve been a minor regret,” Shkreli said during an interview on Bloomberg TV Friday. “But because the price increase has stuck, so to speak, I don’t really, that’s the main mission -- which was to raise the price and have it generate increased revenue -- that’s happened, so I’m happy with respect to that.”
Turing Pharmaceuticals AG is among the companies under fire for price increases on older drugs that lack competition. Along with Mylan NV, the maker of emergency allergy shot EpiPen, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., these companies have been questioned by Congress and subjected to criticism by the public. Turing and Shkreli were among those included in a U.S. Senate committee report released this week that called for the government to stop a “monopoly business model” employed by some drugmakers to raise prices on some drugs.
Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager who posts on Twitter frequently, became the face of drug outrage after Turing raised the price of Daraprim, an anti-infective for a sometimes-deadly parasitic infection by more than 50-fold. He left Turing after being charged by federal authorities on an unrelated matter.
Asked if he would take the same business strategy again, the 33-year-old said, “Of course.” He conceded that he put the drug company he ran at risk with his brash approach. But he also called Daraprim “one insignificant drug” compared to other, larger products. Shkreli said he was frustrated and that “the government in many ways is an apparatus of vengeance.”
He said the pricing situation was “blown out of proportion,” and he mentioned Valeant and Pfizer Inc., the world’s second-largest-drugmaker, as other companies who have raised prices recently. Turing did not respond to requests for comment.
He also said he’s made many fans in the business world. “Everybody’s doing it. In capitalism you try to get the highest price you can for a product,” he said.
He was at turns thoughtful and sarcastic during the interview, asking Bloomberg anchors David Westin and Jonathan Ferro, “I don’t know if you’re familiar with health-care insurance,” and saying patients don’t feel the brunt of price increases. While drugs make up about 10 percent of overall health-care spending in the U.S., insurers often implement cost-sharing with patients and increase the premiums patients pay in response to long-term rising costs.
Federal prosecutors have accused Shkreli of defrauding investors in the hedge funds, and of using $11 million of Retrophin assets to pay them off. He also allegedly hid his control in the company’s unrestricted stock to help pay off his debts. He was arrested in December 2015 and has pleaded not guilty.
He said he’s looking forward to the upcoming trial, scheduled for June.
“We’re going to win by a landslide,” he said. “The evidence is clear that I did nothing wrong.”
Shkreli is known for his blunt opinions in an industry that often tries to present a unified front. During a congressional hearing on drug prices in February, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights as a way of refusing to answer questions, then after the hearing called lawmakers “imbeciles” on Twitter.
During his trial, Shkreli predicted that jurors will see somebody they can relate to, not the figure he claims he’s been portrayed as in interviews. “Invariably, when people read the headline about Martin Shkreli, they hate Martin Shkreli. When they get to know Martin Shkreli, they love Martin Shkreli,” he said.
During the TV interview, Shkreli brought up the $1 billion federal fraud case against the co-founder and several associates of hedge fund Platinum Partners. The U.S. has accused Platinum of a Ponzi-like scheme. Platinum co-founder Mark Nordlicht pleaded not guilty this week.
Shkreli said he had ‘tangoed” with the hedge fund over a trade, before investigators brought the case, and called the investigations and charges an example of what the government should go after. After his interview on Bloomberg, he declined to comment on whether he had spoken to federal investigators about the Platinum case.