During Congressional grilling on Thursday, ex-Turing Pharma general counsel Howard Dorfman told lawmakers that he and other company execs argued against biopharma black sheep Martin Shkreli’s now-infamous 5,000% price hike for a 62-year-old drug used by cancer and HIV/AIDS patients.
Dorfman described Shkreli’s extravagant cost increase for Daraprim as “certainly unjustified” and said that Shkreli rebuffed the concerns of his colleagues at Turing during testimony before the Senate Committee on Aging. The 32-year-old former hedge fund manager and biotech exec argued that “no one cares about pricing increases,” according to Dorfman.
That alleged statement has proven particularly off-base. Shkreli’s price increase catalyzed a firestorm of industry-wide criticism over pharma’s pricing practices from politicians, the media, and the public. The backlash has put the industry on its heels and presents one of the major PR fiascos in the sector’s recent history.
Biotech and pharmaceutical leaders, including major trade groups like PhRMA and BIO, have attempted to distance themselves from Shkreli and other firms which have relied heavily on price hikes such as besieged drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) (a company that even Shkreli has recoiled from).
Lawmakers also continued to grill current Turing executives during Thursday’s hearing. Committee chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and ranking member Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) lambasted interim CEO Ron Tilles over the Daraprim hike and pushed him on the share of revenues the firm funnels into R&D.
Another Turing official, chief commercial officer Nancy Retzlaff, stared down a similarly intense grilling just last month in front of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and promised the company would refrain from such exorbitant hikes in the future.
Shkreli, who was also present at that hearing, didn’t answer any questions and instead chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.