Lawmakers reschedule hearing to question Martin Shkreli

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WASHINGTON (AP) – House lawmakers have rescheduled a Tuesday hearing planned to question former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli, reviled for hiking the price of a lifesaving drug, due to the blizzard over the weekend.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will now meet Thursday, Feb. 9, to examine exorbitant drug price increases by Shkreli’s former company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and other drugmakers.

The new date increases the likelihood that Shkreli will be forced to attend.

Shkreli has become the public face of corporate greed after his company Turing hiked the price of Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection, by 5,000 percent. Since then, Shkreli has been deluged with criticism from patients, politicians and the media, with some labeling him the “most hated man in America.”

Lawmakers subpoenaed Shkreli, who often taunts his critics over Twitter, earlier this month as part of a months-long probe into drug pricing.

But his lawyer has requested he be excused from attending the congressional hearing, since the terms of his bail forbid him from leaving New York.

Last month, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager was charged with securities fraud and conspiracy related to another pharmaceutical company he previously ran called Retrophin. Shkreli pleaded not guilty and was released on $5 million bail. He resigned as CEO of Turing.

House lawmakers have made clear they expect Shkreli to make the legal arrangements needed to attend.

The Department of Justice requested Sunday that the presiding New York judge allow Shkreli to travel to Washington, according to a legal filing.

Public concerns about sky-high drug prices have been growing for years but boiled over last fall after reports about Turing, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and a handful of other drugmakers jacking up the prices of old drugs many times over their prior cost.

Valeant drew Congress’ interest following its purchase of the two life-saving heart drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel. The company, known for gobbling up smaller drugmakers to get their products and then slashing jobs and research programs, hiked the drugs’ prices shortly after buying them from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February, tripling one and raising the other six-fold.

The committee will also hear testimony from Turing’s chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, Valeant Pharmaceutical’s interim CEO, Howard Schiller, and experts from government and the private sector.

A spokeswoman for Quebec-based Valeant said the company has provided information, including documents, to the committee.

Daraprim, which Turing acquired in August, is the only approved drug for a life-threatening parasitic infection that mainly strikes pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients. Amid mounting criticism from patients, doctors and politicians, Shkreli pledged to lower Daraprim’s price, but later reneged and instead offered hospitals a 50 percent discount – still amounting to a 2,500 percent increase.

Both Turing and Valeant have received multiple subpoenas from federal prosecutors seeking information about drug pricing and other business practices.

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