Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Rejects Donation from Turing Pharma’s Martin Shkreli

New Target: Eli Lilly Feels the Burn of Bernie Sanders After Tweet

October 16, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, rejected a request for a meeting from embattled Turing Pharmaceuticals’ Chief Martin Shkreli. Additionally, Sanders’ campaign also refused to accept Shkreli’s campaign donation of $2,700, the Boston Globe reported.

Shkreli, who is the target of political criticism after increasing the price of a recently acquired drug by 5,000 percent, sent his donation to Sanders, a self-described Democratic-Socialist, who seems to be the polar opposite of the brash venture capitalist. Shkreli told the Globe that he made his donation to Sanders in hopes to get a private meeting with the candidate to explain why drug companies set pricing on new and recently acquired drugs, such as Daraprim. Turing acquired the drug for use in the treatment of toxoplasmosis in August for $55 million. The drug had been available for $13.50 per dose, but after the acquisition the price increased to $750 per dose.

The Sanders campaign said it will not keep the donation, but will instead donate the money to the Whitman-Walker health clinic in Washington, D.C.

“We are not keeping the money from this poster boy for drug company greed,” Michael Briggs, a campaign spokesperson told the Globe.

Since the price increase, Shkreli has been ridiculed and was dubbed “the most hated man in America.” He has also been excoriated by some political candidates, including Sanders – something that is not sitting well with Shkreli, the Globe said.

“I think it’s cheap to use one person’s action as a platform without kind of talking to that person,” Shkreli told the Globe. “He’ll take my money, but he won’t engage with me for five minutes to understand this issue better.”

Shkreli told the Globe he wants to talk about the role of innovation in drug development and the amount of money drug companies must invest in the development of new treatments. Because of the large investments, Shkreli said companies have to be expected to see a financial return on them.

Still, while trying to secure a meeting with Sanders, Shkreli has used his social media platforms, most notably Twitter, to taunt Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination who were addressing prescription price control during a debate earlier this week. During the debate Shkreli challenged Sanders about drug prices on his Twitter account, saying the drug is “overwhelmingly paid for” by corporate America and the insurance companies. He also tweeted that Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “hold uninformed view that fall apart under any scrutiny.”

Shkreli said the price increase will be used to pay for new research into a treatment for toxoplasmosis. Turing acquired Daraprim from IMPAX Laboratories, Inc. for $55 million in August. Daraprim is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasite that threatens those who have compromised immune systems, such as cancer and HIV patients, as well as pregnant women. The drug is used by about 2,000 people in the United States annually for an average period of about six to 12 weeks. It is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the parasite.

After facing ridicule for the price increase, Shkreli said he will lower the price of Daraprim, but so far that has not happened. In an interview with Business Insider, Shkreli said he may lower the price, but it will depend on profitability. He said the company will want to ensure it recoups the $55 million it spent to acquire the drug in August. Until demand is determined, he said the company will not lower the price of the drug. He said the company spent months determining a price point for the drug before it was finally acquired and to keep it at the level it was sold prior to the acquisition was not sustainable.

“We will either make a small profit or break even as a company. We don’t want excessive profiteering. But the key word in profiteering is profit. We’re not profitable right now. Every big pharma [company] makes billions in profit. Turing doesn’t make a profit,” Business Insider quoted Shkreli as saying.

Turing may face a probe from New York State’s attorney general over violating anti-trust laws after it increased Daraprim’s price. The attorney general sent a letter to Shkreli urging him to contact their office immediately “to respond to concerns that the company’s sales practices were intended to deter generic pharmaceutical firms from creating alternatives to the drug.” In the letter Eric Stock, the bureau’s chief said Turing is not permitting the drug to be sold in retail pharmacies, but rather is distributing it only through a small number of specialty pharmacies.” Because of this, Turing may be inhibiting competition, the letter is reported as saying.