Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli's 15 minutes of infamy aren't over yet, thanks to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In a new campaign ad airing this week, Clinton makes Shkreli the "star," interspersing an image of his face from a Today Show interview with newscast snippets about his outrageous Daraprim price hike--and Clinton's responding proposals, of course.
Clinton's campaign managers told MSNBC they're continuing to focus on Shkreli because "the Turing pharmaceutical story is a winning issue for the candidate because it's understandable to real people and impacts people's lives." It also helps to reinforce Clinton's projected image as a "fighter," according to MSNBC.
Maybe so, but is the renewed attack having peripheral effects on pharma companies that are doing real research and development, versus the smaller number that, like Turing, are snapping up old drugs and hiking prices?
In a Facebook Q&A on Monday, Clinton responded to questions about her stance and its impact on the industry. One woman asked about the plan, noting the fact that biotech stocks fell after her comments last week.
Clinton responded, "My plan actually encourages more investment in innovation and research, not less. So that should be a win-win for businesses and consumers. Biotech companies working on life-saving breakthroughs won't have anything to fear from my plan. But if you're price-gouging American families and jacking up costs for no good reason, I'm going to hold you accountable."
Clinton later called out Shkreli by name and then lumped in other drug companies, writing: "So Mr. Shkreli, what's it going to be? Do the right thing. Lower the cost today to its original price. There are other drug companies gouging Americans with higher prices than they charge other people around the world. We want to reward innovation, but right now consumers don't know if they are buying value or simply subsidizing high profits."
Then Clinton goes into a rundown of her proposals. "Force drug manufacturers to justify their prices, make sure they add real value. Require the largest drug manufacturers to invest a minimum amount in R&D. And--a new idea to chew on--let's explore using some of these new research funds to invest directly in producing generic competitors where none exists."
Since early coverage of the story, when pharma executives stayed mostly silent, several CEOs have spoken out to the media about Turing's moves, including Biogen's ($BIIB) George Scangos and Novartis' ($NVS) Joe Jimenez, as well as Teva ($TEVA) global head of research and development Michael Hayden.
"We need to change the way we're viewed by the public," Hayden said (as quoted by Reuters). "We're doing good. We're really indispensable to the healthcare system. Turing and others don't really help that perspective. … We have an image problem."
Special Report: Top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013