January 15, 2016 / 8:23 PM / 2 years ago

US House oversight panel seeks testimony from 'Pharma Bro' Shkreli

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WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional panel is asking pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli to testify at a Jan. 26 hearing about his company's decision to raise the price of a life-saving prescription drug, according to a Republican committee staffer.

Shkreli, who became known as "Pharma Bro," created a fire storm last year after his company Turing Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of a drug called Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent.

Last month, Shkreli was forced to step down as Turing CEO amid criminal and civil securities fraud charges alleging he ran a Ponzi-like scheme during his tenure at the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management and while he was the CEO of Retrophin , another drug company he previously headed.

The securities fraud charges are unrelated to the drug pricing probe by the committee.

The hearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will primarily focus on Turing's price spike of Daraprim, and price hikes for two of Valeant Pharmaceutical's heart medications - Isuprel and Nitropress.

A Democratic committee staffer told Reuters on Friday that Valeant's Interim CEO Howard Schiller is also expected to appear at the hearing.

A Valeant spokeswoman confirmed that Schiller will attend, and said he looks forward to testifying and that the company is cooperating with the ongoing congressional probe.

An attorney for Shkreli declined to comment.

Earlier this month, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings jointly sent document requests to Valeant, Turing and Shkreli.

In their requests, the lawmakers asked for documents showing each company's gross revenues and profits from the sales of the drugs in question, as well as communications by the CEOs in connection with the drugs.

Since then, Turing has given tens of thousands of documents to U.S. congressional investigators ahead of the hearing, according to a Democratic committee staffer.

A spokeswoman for Turing did not have an immediate comment.

The committee is expected to review another batch of documents from Valeant in the near future. The deadline for submission is Jan. 22.

The House Oversight panel's interest in drug pricing was sparked by Cummings, who has on multiple occasions called for the Republican-led panel to probe prescription drug pricing.

Initially the issue did not get much traction, as only the political party in the majority has the power to compel testimony and call hearings.

In recent months, however, the issue has generated growing bipartisan support. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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