By Aaron Smith , CNN Written by
Drug prices are the lifeblood of the US healthcare system, but one Democratic lawmaker’s campaign to bring down costs appears to be stalling.
On Thursday, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he was reviewing whether to re-interview pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli following the arrest of former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli on federal charges of fraud.
Shkreli, who gained notoriety after raising the price of a drug used to treat AIDS and cancer patients by 5,000%, has been widely condemned for his actions. In February, Shkreli resigned as CEO of Turing after a jury found him guilty of two securities fraud counts, and just this week he was arrested on federal charges in his management of another pharmaceutical company called Retrophin.
The drug pricing issue had caught the attention of many lawmakers, and Cummings had received death threats due to his oversight committee probe into the drug pricing issue and other healthcare policy issues, he said.
Still, Cummings admitted that his office had approached him for a re-interview, but that Shkreli had rejected it. “We offered to conduct a face-to-face interview with Mr. Shkreli so I could review the transcript of his prior testimony, and on that basis, we were hoping to conduct the interview this week,” Cummings said in a statement.
Shkreli issued a statement Thursday evening that denied rejecting an interview request and said he was open to agreeing to sit down.
“Just one week ago, I was called out by Speaker Ryan and other members of Congress on ABC’s ‘This Week’ where they called me ‘nothing more than a snake oil salesman.’ I stood firm saying that’s not what I am, and this weekend, I was invited to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee at their next hearing. This is a great opportunity for the public to hear directly from me,” Shkreli said.
“I recognize that I need to explain the goals of my company as it relates to the overall betterment of the public. If you thought that I tried to gouge American consumers when I raised the price of Daraprim, you are mistaken. As indicated in my previous testimony, I simply followed the same prices we charge in every other country in the world. I will certainly answer any questions posed to me today.”
The response is surprising, and the approach the committee is taking to the issue is striking. While Shkreli was in the news following his high-profile price hike of Daraprim, the committee probe into the price of the drug has not gotten a lot of airtime. Even Shkreli, who is the subject of the investigation, has been largely quiet, with his only interview last year taking place in ABC’s “This Week.”
Last week, the House committee announced its next hearing, which was set for April 12, featuring two advocacy groups dedicated to lowering the price of drugs. One is One Voice Healthcare, which advocates for lowering drug prices, while the other is Patients for Affordable Drugs.
In his statement, Cummings said he was unimpressed by Shkreli’s decision to reject an interview with the committee.
“I have made it clear that I will hold Mr. Shkreli responsible for his actions. As a leader of a pharmaceutical company, he has been able to influence the health of millions. This committee has a responsibility to hold him accountable,” Cummings said.