Martin Shkreli, the 32-year old hedge fund manager who became the face of prescription drug price-gouging, appeared briefly Thursday before a House committee looking into skyrocketing drug costs.
In the face of pointed questions by members of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Shkreli responded with just 20 words.
"On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question," he replied to every question.
Shkreli came to public notoriety in August when the company he founded, Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the rights to a 60 year-old drug called Daraprim, used to treat parasitic infections and, in some cases, HIV. The company immediately raised the price of the drug from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a pill.
Shkreli was publicly unapologetic in the face of wide-spread outrage. He was later fired as CEO of the company he founded and currently faces security fraud charges.
Smirks instead of answers
As committee members directed accusatory questions at him, Shkreli smirked and at one point rolled his eyes. Before the committee dismissed the reluctant witness, Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-SC) tried to appeal to Shkreli's conscience, pleading with him to use his influence to bring about change in the pharmaceutical industry.
“People's lives are at stake because of the price increases you imposed and the access problems that has created,” Cummings said. “You are in a unique position. Rightly or wrongly, you've been viewed as the so-called bad boy of pharma. You have a spotlight and a platform. You could use that to come clean, to right your wrongs, and to become one of the most effective patient advocates in the country.”
Shkreli smiled but said nothing. At that point, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) acknowledged that it was pointless to question Shkreli further and dismissed him.
Shkreli's current troubles have nothing to do with drug prices. Rather, federal regulators have charged him with several counts of securities fraud, in his associations with a drug company and hedge fund he managed.
Though he was silent before the committee, Shkreli has been outspoken outside the halls of Congress. He gave an interview this week to Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business News Channel in which he said people stop him on the street for selfies and autographs.