Congress became enraged the other day during a committee hearing about how Martin Shkreli raised the price of an important drug by about 5000% (Daraprim went from $13.50 to $750 per pill). He had the audacity to smirk at those asking him questions. Often he would not even pay attention while they spoke. Just as often, he scoffed when he was called upon to answer them.
To further inflame them, after leaving the hearing, he tweeted that the inquiring congress folk were imbeciles.
I suspect their outrage wasn’t influenced so much on how the most hated man in the US raised the price of vital medicine as much as they hated the way he treated them.
How dare he not show this august group of people the respect they believe they deserve!
However, the truth is he just treated them the way all of Big Pharma perceives them. He treated them like the bought and sold patsies they have become. He treated them like the people who take millions of dollars in their money to do their bidding. He just didn't show the reverence for them that the other Big Pharma honchos do to present to the public a contrite face and therefore hide their true feeling for these pawns.
In other words, Shkreli treated them exactly the way Big Pharma would really like to treat them, but doesn’t so that congress people can keep their façade of being the people’s representatives alive.
The United States has the highest cost for medical drugs in the industrial world. For example Seroquel, which is used for insomnia, is $33 in Canada vs. $124 in the US. Also, for the cancer drug Campath here is the price in various countries: United States: $2,400; France: $760; Sweden $660; Britain $570; Italy $500. The cost of Nexium (used for acid reflux) is only $23 in Holland, while if you buy it here you pay $215.
The reason for this disparity is because congress refuses to regulate Big Pharma. In fact, they’ve even passed legislation that makes it against the law for the government (yes, the entity they work for) to shop around for cheaper prices for US Medicare recipients. This way congress keeps Big Pharma happy and they keep getting big bucks from lobbyists for their political campaigns.
So congress will continue to ignore regulating Big Pharma (as well as Big Oil, Wall Street, etc.) so they may continue to get the largess they adore. However, they will also continue to express their anger at Shkreli and may even level a “contempt of congress” fine of several thousand dollars. By my reckoning, that will be equivalent to about three or four of those pills he sells.
**The Thurber Brigade apologizes for once again veering off the road of the War Between Men and Women and assures everyone that it will return to the straight and narrow soon. We had really planned to write about something else (and will shortly publish it) but couldn't miss the chance to not only make fun of this evil man, but also get a stab in at congress. I know, too easy of a target. Sorry.
Ahhh, James Thurber