“Ex-CEO Shkreli smirks, pleads Fifth at hearing on drug price hikes,” reads the headline.
The former pharmaceutical executive who generated national outrage after he raised the price of a once-cheap life-saving pill to $750 was unapologetic and showed his contempt for lawmakers Thursday — invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and rolling his eyes, as one congressman asked if he was “even paying attention.”
After his brief appearance on Capitol Hill, Martin Shkreli even took to Twitter to call lawmakers “imbeciles.”
Known for speaking his mind, the usually talkative 32-year-old declined to answer questions at the House Oversight Committee hearing.
At one point, he chuckled, rolled his eyes and turned his head, prompting Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to demand, “Are you even paying attention?”
“It’s not funny, Mr. Shkreli,” Cummings said. “People are dying.”
“I have never seen the committee treated with so much contempt,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said.
Most people will agree with the politicians here. “That man is charging too much. He’s working for a profit, when people’s lives are at stake. Shame!”
So do drug companies have no right to a profit? They’re the ones who bring the product to market, the very product which saves lives. They’re the ones who take the risks and assume the liability. If the drug fails, they face civil or even criminal consequences. If the drug succeeds, they will get none of the credit, although they will gain financial profit. Shouldn’t they? Most of all, without the drug companies there would be no life-saving drugs in the first place.
Many are against profit-making on drugs as a matter of principle. These are the kind of people who vote for Bernie Sanders. But if profit-making is automatically and always wrong, then what’s the alternative? If the government could simply establish an agency devoted to the research, manufacture and creation of life-saving drugs, don’t you think that would have happened by now? Don’t you think Soviet Russia, Communist Cuba or Communist North Korea, and not capitalist America, would have led the way in drug innovation?
Others will say, “Drug companies should make a profit; but not that much profit.” How much is too much? And why that limit? And if the amount Shkreli charged for his profit justifies hauling him before Congress, then why not do so for any other profit level? Under the law, especially in a free country, we need an objective standard. The attitude of, “Well, I know how much is too much when I see it,” will not do. Not to those who care about justice and rule of law, as these preening politicians in both parties claim to do.
The story continues:
Documents from Valeant and Turing show they have made a practice of buying and then dramatically raising prices for, low-cost drugs given to patients with life-threatening conditions including heart disease, AIDS and cancer, according to excerpts released this week by the House panel.
I don’t want politicians investigating why drug companies sometimes charge what they consider too much for drugs. Instead, I want politicians investigating how to make the market for pharmaceuticals, and all of medical care, less regulated. Drug companies should be free to charge what they can get for drugs. Drug companies will not survive, after all, unless they charge what most people can afford. What we need is a free market, not a government regulated and subsidized pseudo-market where politicians pick favorites and scold naughty children, as literally was the case at this appalling hearing. Maybe if government stopped being the primary insurance, health care would not cost so much because drug companies would be more accountable to the marketplace.
Making profit on medicine is not horrible, awful or sinful; by permitting this freedom, we simultaneously permit drug companies the freedom to innovate, produce and manufacture the medications we need to survive. If drug companies did not do this, who would – or could? If we took away the incentive of profit, how would the goods get to market? It takes a lot of time, money and energy to get those pills to your pharmacist, or on the pharmacy shelves. Do you think it happens by magic? Most of us will answer, “It’s wrong to profit at the expense of illness. The purpose of drug companies is to help people.” Are you prepared to say that about your own job? Then why don’t you stop accepting money and benefits, and work for free? It’s an absurd suggestion, for the same reason it’s absurd to expect drug companies to work without a profit.
Call Martin Shkreli whatever name you wish. Perhaps he is sadistic. On his worst day, he will not match the arrogance and ignorance of politicians. Drug companies can go out of business; politicians, sadly, almost never do. (Changing parties does not help.) Moral superiority does not change the facts. These politicians are performing before the cameras. They could no more get a life-saving drug to market than your dog or cat. Whatever Shkreli’s motives or mindset, he treated these arrogant, intrusive and narcissistic do-no-gooders exactly as they deserve.
Drug companies create something of importance. The same cannot be said for the vast majority of politicians. They should get the hell out of the way.
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