By Ethan Sterenfeld, Correspondent
Most people do not understand how the pharmaceutical industry works, Martin Shkreli, the investor and drug company executive who made headlines in 2015 when one of his companies raised the price of the 60-year-old drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent, said at Princeton University on Friday.
“How and why we price drugs is something I think nobody understands,” Shkreli said. “I was baffled by the number of instant experts on drug pricing that existed when they read about my story.”
The BBC once called Shkreli, a self-proclaimed “pharma bro,” the “most hated man in America.” He was invited to the university by the Princeton Corporate Finance Club.
“A lot of people think that I just woke up one day and decided to be the world’s worst person, and that I fell on my head as an infant, and that I strangle kittens in my spare time,” Shkreli said Friday evening. He claimed that he is not evil, and that his exclusive goal is to make profits.
Shkreli was originally invited to speak at Princeton earlier this year by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, but the group canceled his speech. In a statement on Facebook, Entrepreneurship Club officials said that they canceled because of his “acts of sexual harassment and atrocious comments on Twitter.”
Healthcare spending should be high, Shkreli said, as long as society cares about health.
“If something’s providing you with this enormous value, that’s saving your life, it should be expensive,” Shkreli said. “The more utility something provides you, the more expensive something should be.”
High drug prices allow Shkreli to spend more on research and development for new treatments, he said. He is currently developing medicines for rare diseases that most major drug companies would not pay attention to, since the market is too small.
“One of my companies is making a drug for 400 patients,” Shkreli said. “There are only 400 people who have the illness. And the only way to break even on that would be to charge an enormous amount per patient.”
Doctors are the cause for rising healthcare costs in America, Shkreli said.
“It turns out that doctors like to make a lot of money,” he said, before claiming that they should be replaced by IBM’s computer system Watson. “I think Watson could replace your physician. And he could probably do a better job, actually.”
Shkreli’s famously caustic personality was absent Friday evening, replaced with a very technical, erudite discussion of drug pricing and policy, although he did engage with one student journalist who asked him a question.
“You should know that I hate the media,” Shkreli said. “I barely listened to your question.”
Shkreli joined a Facebook group aimed at Princeton students in early March, and he was banned shortly thereafter for making insulting comments, online campus publication The Tab Princeton reported.
“What do they even teach at this educational institution?” Shkreli wrote on the Facebook group in February. “Y’all learn anything recently? Bet you cowards don’t even smoke crack.”
Shkreli also commented on his upcoming federal criminal trial, which is scheduled to start June 26. The government has accused him of defrauding investors at his hedge fund and stealing money from one of his biotechnology firms.
“I think the arrogance of prosecutors is up there with the arrogance of politicians,” Shkreli said. “What you’ll find in my case, what you’ll find is, there are no victims.”
He remained defiant and claimed that he would be found innocent at trial.
“I have a lot of hope,” Shkreli said. “If it were legal for me to bet on it, I would.”
Controversial ‘pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli claims he’s not evil
By Ethan Sterenfeld, Correspondent