[W]as Shkreli’s performance actually more objectionable than that of the legislators who were performing alongside him? Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, is the ranking Democrat on the committee, and he used his allotted time to deliver a scolding. “Somebody’s paying for these drugs, and it’s the taxpayers that end up paying for some of them,” he said. “Those are our constituents.” In fact, it’s hard to figure out exactly who is paying what for Daraprim. Shkreli and Turing have claimed that hospitals and insurance companies will pay, while patients who can’t afford it will get a discount, or get it for free. And Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, told the committee about her company’s efforts to get the drug to people who can’t afford it. The arrangement she described sounded like a hodge-podge, an ungainly combination of dizzyingly high prices, mysterious corporate bargaining, and occasional charitable acts—which is to say, it sounded not so much different from the rest of our medical system.
The Daraprim saga has as much to do with the Food and Drug Administration as with Shkreli: although the drug’s patent expired in the nineteen-fifties, the F.D.A. certification process for generic drugs is gruelling enough that, for the moment, whoever owns Daraprim has a virtual monopoly in America. (Overseas, it is much cheaper.)
Shkreli is selling a drug in America where the PATENT HAS EXPIRED — other people cannot sell it in America, not because of Shkreli, but because of the FDA. It is cheap outside the country where there is no FDA!!!! Perhaps congress is going after the wrong entity.
One of the strangest things about the anti-Shkreli argument is that it asks us to be shocked that a medical executive is motivated by profit. And one of the strangest things about Shkreli himself is that he doesn’t seem to be motivated by profit—at least, not entirely.