The Slatest

Hedge Fund Bro Says He’ll Cut Inflated Drug Price So He’ll Only Turn a “Small Profit”

A pharmacy manager fills a prescription August 7, 2007 in Miami, Florida.  

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After two days of blistering criticism, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli told NBC News Tuesday he would cut the price of Daraprim, the medication used by AIDS patients, in response to the public backlash over the spike in the price. Shkreli bought the rights to sell Daraprim in the U.S. in August for $55 million. At the time it was retailing for $13.50 a pill, although as recently as 2010 it cost as little as $1. Overnight, Shkreli jacked up the price to $750 per tablet.

“Yes it is absolutely a reaction [to the criticism] — there were mistakes made with respect to helping people understand why we took this action, I think that it makes sense to lower the price in response to the anger that was felt by people,” Shkreli told NBC News about his decision to reduce the price. “I think in the society we live in today it’s easy to want to villainize people, and obviously we’re in an election cycle where this is very, very tough topic for people and it’s very sensitive. And I understand the outrage.”

When the news of Shkreli’s price-gouging strategy made the rounds on Monday, as expected, patients, doctors, the Internet, people, all found his aim, and methods, pretty despicable. It was not Shkreli’s first pass at squeezing consumers who are on life-saving medicines. Perhaps that’s why his response to the backlash over his business practices was more petulant, than repentant. Shkreli hopscotched around the cable business news circuit responding to pointed questions saying, essentially, Daraprim was underpriced because other drugs out there on the market cost more. And since he wanted to make money, and there was no generic equivalent, Daraprim seemed like a good way to rake in some cash at the expense of, well, people that relied on the treatment. Shkreli remained defiant as opposition mounted against him;
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton offered a plan to rein in drug costs and joined Bernie Sanders in rallying against Shkreli.

By Tuesday evening, Shkreli appeared to have a change of approach, if not heart, telling NBC News that he will reduce the price of Daraprim to a level where Turing “will break even or make a ‘small profit,’” although he didn’t specify what that price would be. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday, however, Turing said it cost $1 to make a tablet of Daraprim before distribution and marketing costs were included.