Exclusive: U.S. FTC probes Turing over drug prices, Shkreli's lawyer says

Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:43pm EST
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By Nate Raymond and David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating Turing Pharmaceuticals for possible antitrust violations in connection with the company's decision to hike the price of a life-saving drug by more than 5,000 percent, a lawyer for former Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli wrote on Friday.

The probe was disclosed in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from Baruch Weiss, Shkreli's lawyer, as grounds for why his client would not answer questions about drug prices at a Jan. 26 hearing.

The committee had subpoenaed Shkreli, who has been indicted separately on securities fraud charges, to appear to discuss why, as Turing's CEO, he decided to raise the price of Daraprim to $750 a tablet from $13.50.

The drug, which was acquired by the company, is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection especially dangerous to AIDS patients and others with compromised immune systems.

In a letter seen by Reuters, Weiss said Shkreli would "gladly cooperate" with the committee and produce documents if it granted immunity to the controversial 32-year-old former drug executive.

But even if that happened, it would not occur before Tuesday's hearing, "so there is no reason on that account for Mr. Shkreli to appear" at it, Weiss wrote in the letter.

In light of government probes involving Shkreli, Weiss said his client would otherwise refuse to answer questions under his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.

The probes include a FTC investigation concerning Daraprim that had not been previously public. It mirrors another antitrust investigation cited by Weiss by the New York state attorney general.   Continued...

Martin Shkreli (C), chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs U.S. Federal Court after an arraignment following his being charged in a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn relating to his management of hedge fund MSMB Capital Management and biopharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc. in New York in this December 17, 2015, file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files