Turing's Martin Shkreli Says He Should Have Increased the Price of Daraprim Higher than 5,000%

Turing's Martin Shkreli Says He Should Have Increased the Price of Daraprim Higher than 5,000%
December 4, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK – Turing Pharmaceutical’s Martin Shkreli, once dubbed the most hated man in America, might not have a difficult time holding onto that title after telling a healthcare panel he should have raised the price of Daraprim even higher than the 5,000 percent increase he did.

“I think I could have raised it higher and made even more profit,” Shkreli said during the panel hosted by Forbes. During a 25 minute discussion, Shkreli said his primary responsibility was maximizing profits for company shareholders, which is why he never lowered the price of Daraprim, with the exception of hospital customers.

“No one wants to say it, no one’s proud of it, but this is a capitalist society, capitalist system, capitalist rules,” he said in the video posted on the Forbes website. “My investors expect me to maximize profits, not to minimize them, or go half or go 70 percent.”

In August, Turing acquired Daraprim from IMPAX Laboratories, Inc. in August for $55 million. The medication was available for $13.50 per tablet, but Turing increased the price to $750 per tablet, which drastically raises the cost of treatment for patients. The drug, which was originally developed by GlaxoSmithKline , is used to treat toxoplasmosis. Shkreli and Turing have defended the price increase, saying the new revenues from the medication would be used to fund a research into developing new treatments for toxoplasmosis. The drug is used by about 2,000 people in the United States annually for a period of six to 12 weeks.

After the price increase for Daraprim, San Diego-based Imprimis Inc. announced it has developed a compound of pyrimethamine and leucovorin as a low-cost alternative to Daraprim. Imprimis said its combination treatment will have a price tag of $99 for 100 tablets, slightly less than $1 per pill.

Shkreli also defended his decision to not lower the price of Daraprim, even though he had said the company would lower the cost after a public outcry. That rollback never happened. Shkreli said Turing opted to not lower the price of Daraprim in order to make money for Turing’s shareholders. He cited a Delaware law that he said states he must do everything to maximize the financial return for his shareholders—something he claimed was his fiduciary duty.

After being excoriated in the media following the Daraprim increase, in October Shkreli hired a number of image and media advisers to help with an image makeover, although he planned to maintain his combative and antagonistic style.

While Shkreli touted his fiduciary duty to maximize profits, other pharmaceutical leaders took the opportunity to distance themselves from Shkreli and Turing. Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline , said he found the 5,000 percent increase of Daraprim disturbing, and noted the drug is available in the United Kingdom for $20, Business Insider reported.

Merck & Co. ’s CEO Kenneth Frazier sought to distance himself from being compared to Shkreli, saying “he is not us,” according to Business Insider.

Perhaps the most surprising comment came from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. CEO Leonard S. Schleifer who said while pharmaceutical companies are often criticized for high prescription prices or moving companies overseas in order to find a better corporate tax rate, he said Shkreli was different from them.

“We do some pretty crappy things,” Schleifer said, according to Business Insider. “Still, “he’s not in the same business as we are.”

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