Martin Shkreli, CEO and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has some colorful nicknames bestowed upon him by the press. The baby-faced multi-millionaire son of Albanian and Croatian immigrants has referred to himself as “the world’s most eligible bachelor,” but the press has tagged him with such colorful monikers as “pharma bro,” “biotech’s bad boy” and possibly the über-harsh “America’s most hated man.”
However, one certain sobriquet the media seems to have missed was ‘massive donator to the Democratic Party.” As noted by Debra Heine of PJMedia.com on Feb. 5, 2016, the smirky and smarmy businessman who’s been pilloried for increasing the cost of potentially lifesaving drug (Daraprim) from $13.50 a pill to $750 each, an increase by more than 5,000 percent, has also given more than a few dollars to a certain Democratic Party presidential contender as well as the party itself.
Shkreli is back in the headlines after his recent appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform where he managed to irk just about everyone on both sides of the aisle due to his rather flippant attitude both in his voice and facial expressions (see video). Despite being in the cross hairs of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as the poster boy for corporate greed, it’s since been revealed that “America’s most hated man” has donated $2,700 to Sen. Sanders and also a whopping $33,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign in July 2015.
To his credit, Sanders did dump the donation by forwarding the same amount to the Whitman-Walker Health Clinic in Washington, but not until the threat of bad press reared its ugly head. Two and a half weeks after the initial donation did the Sanders campaign make its move.
Furthermore, after Shkreli initially donated to the Sanders campaign, the very same sent the following email to Shkreli, “Our political system is corrupt. Big Money controls much of what happens. Together, you and I are changing that. Thank you again for your support. Best, Bernie.”
Despite Shkreli and the pharmaceutical industry being vilified as greedy price gougers, John Graham of Forbes magazine recently reported on some of the specifics on how high drug prices very well may be the fault of the government rather than on heartless drug companies. In part, Graham broke down into layman’s terms, “They [specialty drugs] comprise intellectual property protected by patents, which allow the drug makers to compete without fear that their innovations will be copied immediately by manufacturers who made no comparable investment in R&D.”
Also noted was “Daraprim is a 62-year old medicine that combats the toxoplasmosis parasite, and has no patent protection. A dramatic price increase should immediately attract competitors to whittle down the price. And yet it does not. Indeed, Mr. Shrekli has made it clear he does not expect competitors to respond… Mr. Shkreli claimed that he would use the revenue earned from Daraprim’s higher price to fund research and development on a new drug that would be better than Daraprim.”
Perhaps most damning of government intervention in the costs of drugs would be Grahams observation, “However, we must also understand why these momentous price hikes are happening now, and not a decade or more ago. In a new policy report, Devon Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) explains that the Food and Drug Administration has slowed down the rate of approval of generic drugs – drugs which the FDA determines are bioequivalent to brand-name medicines. Mr. Herrick concludes that the FDA currently has a backlog of about 4,000 applications. In 2010 the median approval time for new generic drugs was 27 months. For a very small market like that which Daraprim addresses, generic competitors have to be able to enter very quickly if patients are to benefit from lower prices. They cannot wait over two years. Limiting excessive price hikes by operators exploiting this regulatory morass will not be achieved by more political oversight of drug makers, but by reducing the barriers preventing new competitors entering the market.”