Price-Gouging Drug Exec Shared $34k With Senate Democrats

Senate Banking Committee member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., right, question Janet Yellen, President Obama's nominee to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, as she testifies at her confirmation hearing before the committee, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Last week, news broke that Martin Shkerli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals had hiked the price of a drug used to treat AIDS by over 5,000%.

Hillary Clinton savaged the executive on Twitter and on Monday demanded that the company roll back the price increase.

It turns out, though, that Mr. Shkerli is a major donor to the Senate Democrats.

In July, Shkerli donated $34,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, chaired by Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester. The DSCC is the party’s official organization to support and elect Democrats to the US Senate.

Not long after this donation, Shkerli’s company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired the rights to the drug Daraprim, a 50-year old drug used to treat parasitic infections. In recent years, the drug has been used to treat AIDs and cancer patients who develop specific infections during treatment.

At the time of the Turing purchase, Daraprim, which is long past its patent-protection, was selling for around $13.50 a pill. Soon after the purchase of the drug was complete, however, Turing announced it was increasing the price to $750 a pill. The drug today costs around $1 a pill to produce.

Shkerli defended the price hike, saying the increase was needed to fund the development of new drugs to treat parasitic infections with fewer side effects. “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Shkreli explained.

News of the price hike sparked a public outcry, with Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton seizing on the story to boost her campaign. Within days, Shkerli announced that his company would lower the price of the drug, although he didn’t specify a new amount.

The retreat wasn’t enough for Hillary Clinton, however. On Monday, Mrs. Clinton demanded that Shkerli immediately roll back the price of the drug to the original amount, before the company purchased the rights to the medicine.

“He still hasn’t said how much the drug will cost going forward, and in the meantime, sick patients still have to wait and worry and continue to pay $750/pill.,” Clinton wrote on a Facebook Q&A. “So Mr. Shkreli, what’s it going to be? Do the right thing. Lower the cost today to its original price.”

Which raises an obvious question for Sen. Tester and the Senate Democrats. Are they going to keep Shkreli’s donation, or “do the right thing” and return the money.

What’s it going to be Sen. Tester?



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