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"Pharma bro" Martin Shkreli is about to get grilled: Congress calls him to Capitol Hill for hearing on prescription prices

Rep. Elijah Cummings says he can't wait to have Martin Shkreli explain his price-gouging to the American people


Sophia Tesfaye
November 5, 2015 9:47PM (UTC)

After his company acquired the 62-year-old life-saving drug Daraprim in September, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli dramatically increased the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750 and instantly became America's face for the much despised pharmaceutical industry.

Now, Congress wants answers. Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, sent Shkreli a letter this week requesting his participation in an investigation into drug pricing:

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Some of the recent actions we've seen in the pharmaceutical industry—with corporate acquisitions followed by dramatic increases in the prices of pre-existing drugs—have looked like little more than price gouging. We need to get to the bottom of why we're seeing huge spikes in drug prices that seemingly have no relationship to research and development costs.

The senators requested Shkreli provide a host of documents, including internal communications, pricing plans, communication with the FDA, and financial documents. The senators also sent letters to the heads of three other pharmaceutical companies: Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin, Inc., and Rodelis Therapeutics.

Earlier this week, Shkreli's company announced it planned to reduce the price of Daraprim by 10 percent this year. Turing had previously hiked the price of the drug used to treat severe infections in AIDS patients and infants by 5000 percent. Needless to say, Turing's measly change of heart did little to quell criticism:

Rep. Elijah Cumming (MD), previously called on Shkreli to testify before Congress after calling his price-gouging move "criminal." But, as only the Ranking Member of the House Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, Cummings is unable to schedule hearings.

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On CNN's "New Day" today, Cummings told host Chris Cuomo that he looks forward to one day grilling Shkreli and having him explain his "greed" to the American people.

But even ahead of Shkreli's upcoming Congressional grilling, Congress has already taken action against greedy pharmaceutical companies like Turing. Back in May, Rep. Cummings and Bernie Sanders reintroduced legislation to expand the Medicaid drug rebate requirement to generic drugs. Although that particular bill went nowhere, the budget deal signed into law by President Obama this week requires that all drug manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicaid when prices shoot up at a rate steeper than inflation.

The Senate committee has asked Shkreli to appear for questioning on December 9.

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Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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