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WATCH: Despised ex-drug CEO smirks his way through questioning by US politicians

Martin Shkreli, who unapologetically raised the price of a life-saving drug 50 times over, later called the politicians “imbeciles.”

Drug Price Hikes Shkreli Source: Associated Press

INFURIATING MEMBERS OF the US Congress, a smirking Martin Shkreli stayed almost silent throughout a hearing today, when asked about jacking up drug prices, then promptly went on Twitter and insulted his questioners as “imbeciles.”

The brash, 32-year-old entrepreneur who has been vilified as the new face of pharmaceutical industry greed was summoned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating soaring prices for critical medicines.

Four times, he intoned:

On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question.

At another point, he said: “I intend to follow the advice of my counsel and not yours.”

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution gives an individual the right not to be forced to answer a question, if answering it might incriminate them.

Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, told Shkreli to wipe the smirk off his face.

I call this money blood money…coming out of the pockets of hardworking Americans.

The former CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical smirked and grinned as Cummings pleaded with him to reconsider hiking the price of life-saving drugs.

I know you are smiling, but I am very serious, sir. I truly believe you can become a force of tremendous good.All I ask is that you reflect on it. No, I don’t ask, I beg that you reflect on it.

Source: C-SPAN/YouTube

The former hedge fund manager has been reviled in recent months for buying Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection, and then unapologetically raising its price more than 50 times over.

Shkreli is out on $5 million bail after being arrested in New York in December on securities-fraud charges unrelated to the price increase.

He was dismissed less than an hour into the hearing, but not before the committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, shouted down a request by Shkreli’s lawyer to speak, insisting:

You have not been sworn in, you are not recognised, and you will be seated.

Lawmakers instead took turns denouncing his conduct and attitude.

Minutes after he left — and even before the hearing had ended — Shkreli thumbed his nose at the committee, tweeting:

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Shkreli’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman later said in his defence:

He meant no disrespect, but in truth, statements made by some of the members of the committee were wrong, unfair and difficult to listen to without responding.

Also appearing before the lawmakers were Turing’s chief commercial officer and the interim CEO of Canada’s largest drugmaker, Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

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 such as heart disease, AIDS and cancer.

The two companies’ executives insisted they are committed to ensuring that cost isn’t a deterrent for patients who need the drugs.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

Read: Man whose company hiked cost of life-saving drug arrested on fraud charges>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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