February 4, 2016 / 6:13 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. lawmakers unlikely to get answers from ex-drug executive Shkreli

Former drug executive Martin Shkreli (C) exits with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman (L) the U.S. Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Martin Shkreli, the former drug executive who raised the price of a lifesaving medicine by 5,000 percent, is set to appear as a witness at a congressional hearing on Thursday but is unlikely to answer lawmakers’ questions about price spikes.

Shkreli, 32, sparked outrage last year among patients, medical societies and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton after his company Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of 62-year-old Daraprim to $750 a pill from $13.50.

The medicine, used to treat a parasitic infection, once sold for $1 a pill.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is scheduled to hold a hearing on drug prices at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT), with Shkreli and others from the pharmaceutical industry as witnesses.

For weeks, Shkreli battled with lawmakers. He insisted that if called to appear, he would invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and remain silent. Lawmakers said his testimony was essential to investigating why drug prices had risen and that if he chose not to answer questions, he must do so in person.

Shkreli’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, repeated on Wednesday that Shkreli would not answer questions. Speaking to reporters after a court hearing, Brafman said the reason was the unrelated criminal charges that Shkreli defrauded investors.

In December, Shkreli was arrested and charged with running his investment funds and companies almost like a Ponzi scheme. He has pleaded not guilty, stepped down from Turing and was fired from KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc KBIOQ.PK. He is also a former head of Retrophin Inc (RTRX.O), which sued him, alleging mismanagement.

The Federal Trade Commission and the New York attorney general are investigating Turing for possible antitrust violations.

Other expected witnesses on Thursday include Turing Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Retzlaff and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX.TO) interim Chief Executive Howard Schiller.

Retzlaff said in written testimony released by the committee that Turing discounted the price of Daraprim to hospitals by 50 percent in November after consulting with patient groups. She added that Turing reinvests much of its income in research and had 13 projects in its pipeline as of December.

Schiller said in written testimony that Valeant has tried to keep drugs affordable through volume-based rebates and a partnership with Walgreens (WBA.O).

He also wrote that patients were best served when prices reflected the market: “When these drugs are priced to reflect more closely their true clinical value, the more accurate price signals incentivize generic competition and innovation.”

Reporting by David Ingram in New York and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney

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