Price-hiking pharma exec Martin Shkreli gets House subpoena

WASHINGTON (AP) — House lawmakers have issued a subpoena to compel former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, reviled for price-gouging, to appear at a congressional hearing next Tuesday.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating several companies for exorbitant drug price increases, including embattled Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

Shkreli became notorious 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."

Last month, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager was arrested in New York and 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, which he founded and ran.

He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The House committee issued the demand January 11 under chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

"I have been trying for the better part of a year to get information from Martin Shkreli about his outrageous price increases, and he has obstructed our investigation at every turn," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the committee's ranking Democrat.

Turing and Valeant Pharmaceuticals both previously refused requests for documents from Cummings and other Democrats.

The committee is also seeking testimony from Turing's chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, Valeant Pharmaceutical's interim CEO, Howard Schiller, and experts from government and the private sector. Calls placed to New York-based Turing were not immediately returned.

A spokeswoman for Laval, Quebec-based Valeant confirmed that Schiller will testify next week. He was named interim CEO earlier this month after the company's chairman and CEO, J. Michael Pearson, was hospitalized for severe pneumonia.

Concerns about sky-high drug prices have been building for years but boiled over last fall after news reports about Turing, Valeant and a handful of other drugmakers hiking prices of old drugs many times over their prior cost.

Valeant drew Congress' interest following its purchase of the 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, jacked up the drugs' prices shortly after buying them from Marathon Pharmaceuticals in February, tripling one and raising the other six-fold.

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. Patients normally take most of the weeklong treatment at home, so they still face the 5,000 percent price increase, though Turing is offering financial aid to those who can't afford the drug.

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