Lawmakers reschedule hearing to question Martin Shkreli
Jan. 25, 2016
WASHINGTON (AP) — House lawmakers have rescheduled a hearing to question former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli, reviled for hiking the price of a lifesaving drug, due to the weekend blizzard that has paralyzed travel on the East Coast.
Staffers for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said the hearing, which had been set for Tuesday, will take place Thursday Feb. 4 instead. The House of Representatives postponed all votes this week due to the storm.
The new date increases the likelihood that the former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO will be forced to attend, despite attempts by his lawyer to keep Shkreli far from Capitol Hill.
Shkreli became the public face of corporate greed last fall, after his company hiked the price of Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection, by 5,000 percent. Since then, the boyish entrepreneur has been deluged with criticism from patients, politicians and the media, with some labeling him the "most hated man in America."
Lawmakers subpoenaed Shkreli — who has taunted them for weeks over Twitter — as part of a months-long probe into exorbitant drug pricing.
But his lawyer requested he be excused from attending the congressional hearing, since the terms of bail from an unrelated case forbid him from leaving New York.
Last month, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager was charged with securities fraud and conspiracy related to another pharmaceutical company he previously ran called Retrophin. Shkreli pleaded not guilty and was released on $5 million bail. He resigned as CEO of Turing.
House lawmakers have pushed back against Shkreli's attempts to dodge the hearing, saying he must make the legal arrangements to comply with the subpoena.
On Sunday, the Department of Justice asked the presiding judge in the New York case to allow Shkreli to travel to Washington, according to a legal filing.
Public concerns about sky-high drug prices have been growing for years but boiled over last fall after reports about Turing, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and a handful of other drugmakers jacking up the prices of old drugs many times over their prior cost.
Valeant drew Congress' interest following its purchase of the two life-saving heart drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel. The company, known for gobbling up smaller drugmakers to get their products and then slashing jobs and research programs, hiked the drugs' prices shortly after buying them from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February, tripling one and raising the other six-fold.
The committee will also hear testimony from Turing's chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, Valeant Pharmaceutical's interim CEO, Howard Schiller, and experts from government and the private sector.
A spokeswoman for Quebec-based Valeant said the company has provided information, including documents, to the committee.
Daraprim, which Turing acquired in August, is the only approved drug for a life-threatening parasitic infection that mainly strikes pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients. Amid mounting criticism from patients, doctors and politicians, Shkreli pledged to lower Daraprim's price, but later reneged and instead offered hospitals a 50 percent discount — still amounting to a 2,500 percent increase.
Both Turing and Valeant have received multiple subpoenas from federal prosecutors seeking information about drug pricing and other business practices.
This story has been corrected to show the new date for the hearing will be Feb. 4, not Feb. 9.