Bernie Sanders Shreds Drug Company CEO Who Raised AIDS Drug Price 5500%

Turing Pharmaceuticals and its CEO, Martin Shkreli, came under heavy fire last month after raising a newly acquired drug’s price 5500 percent. The public pressure was so great that Shkreli relented…sort of…and said he’d bring the drug’s price back down. He didn’t say when, or by how much, and it hasn’t happened yet. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, along with Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), blasted Shkreli in a letter at the time, and they are not happy with the fact that Shkreli has yet to bring the drug’s price back down.

According to The Hill, Sanders and Cummings issued a statement, where they said:

After we sent a letter condemning his blatant profiteering, Mr. Shkreli promised the American people that he would lower the price of this drug. However, instead of lowering the price as he promised, Mr. Shkreli hired an army of new Washington lobbyists and lawyers to stem the massive fallout from his actions and to stymie congressional oversight.

They go on to say that they’re “sickened by these actions” on behalf of Americans everywhere. A spokesperson for Turing gave a lukewarm response, only saying that they were committed to bringing the price back down.

Then why haven’t they? A comment from the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals probably provides the answer. J. Michael Pearson, Valeant’s CEO, says that they’re not in the business of treating and curing sick people. They’re in the business of making money (that’s totally shocking, right?). Ring of Fire quoted Pearson as saying the following:

[If] products are sort of mispriced and there’s an opportunity, we will act appropriately in terms of doing what I assume our shareholders would like us to do.

An “appropriate” price increase is sometimes as high as 800 percent for Valeant. Some of those increases were on critical heart medications. While that’s not 5500 percent, like what Shkreli did at Turing with a drug that’s been on the market for 60 years, that’s still obscene.

It’s so obscene that Sanders, Cummings and other Democratic leaders in Congress are going after Valeant as well as Turing. In a letter written last month to the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight’s chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Democrats said:

We believe it is critical to hold drug companies to account when they engage in ‘a business strategy of buying old neglected drugs and turning them into high-priced’ ‘specialty’ drugs.

That’s what Shkreli and Turing did with Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis and prevent malaria. This drug can be critical for AIDS patients, who are particularly susceptible to infections like toxoplasmosis. This makes Turing’s move look like the greed-fueled nonsense it was.

It’s high time members of Congress actually got out there and worked for the people. Turing, Valeant, and other pharmaceutical companies have gotten away with exploiting the sick for their own gain for far too long.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

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