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'Pharma Bro' Shkreli Invokes the Fifth Before Congress

Former drug executive Martin Shkreli, who has previously derided Congress on social media, faces members of that legislative body on Thursday morning.
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Former drug executive Martin Shkreli, who called members of Congress "imbeciles" on social media, faced members of that legislative body on Thursday morning during a hearing on pharmaceutical pricing.

The normally talkative Shkreli invoked the Fifth Amendment when he appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss his actions as head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, in raising the price of Daraprim by more than 5,500 percent.

Daraprim, which went from costing $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill, is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic condition that can occur in pregnant women and people with the HIV virus.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz asked Shkreli what he would say to a pregnant woman with AIDS who needed his company's medication but couldn't afford it. Shkreli invoked the Fifth.

He smirked, rolled his eyes and looked away when Ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland tried to appeal to his sense of morality and reflect on his actions.

Shkreli looked ready to laugh as lawmakers talked about the victims of Turing Pharmaceuticals.

Cummings angrily yelled him, "It's not funny, Mr. Shkreli. People are dying. And they're getting sicker and sick."

When Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, asked Shkreli how to pronounce his name, the former drug executive answered. Gowdy immediately responded, "so there are some questions you can answer."

But when asked about his purchase of the only copy of the new Wu-Tang Clan album, "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin", Shkreli once again declined to answer.

At one point, Shkreli's lawyer attempted to interject and was promptly told by Chaffetz to sit down.

Ultimately, Shkreli was escorted out of the hearing room.

He later Tweeted that the members of Congress he just faced were "imbeciles".

Shkreli, 32, is separately accused of looting the pharmaceutical company he had founded, Retrophin, in order to pay off investors he was suspected of defrauding at hedge funds he ran. He has denied the charges, and appeared at a hearing on Wednesday in a Brooklyn court.

Ahead of the hearing, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a memo highlighting some of their findings. Those documents include emails in which Shkreli eagerly anticipated a windfall telling the chairman of the board of directors that Turing Pharmaceuticals had made significant progress towards acquiring Daraprim.

Related: 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli Has His Day in Brooklyn Court

“Very good. Nice work as usual. $1bn here we come,” Shkreli said in a May 27, 2015 email.

In August of 2015, Shkreli wrote an outside contact, “I think it will be huge. We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000 ... So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000 almost all of it is profit and I think we will get 3 years of that or more. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us. Let’s all cross our fingers that the estimates are accurate."

In a brief press conference following his dismissal from Congress, Shkreli's lawyer Ben Brafman said that lawmakers were very unfair to his client when they knew that he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right.

"Mr. Shkreli's not a villain — he is not a bad boy. He is a hero," Brafman said, adding that "he is dedicated to saving lives."

Brafman also addressed Shkreli's mocking facial expressions which earned the ire of lawmakers during his appearance before members of Congress.

"Mr. Shkreli did not intend to show any disrespect... what you saw was nervous energy."