Price goug­ing on drugs? Shkre­li's ju­ry se­lec­tion process re­veals some deep pub­lic anger

If the US ever does pass laws pro­hibit­ing price goug­ing on drugs, phar­ma ex­ecs would be well ad­vised to avoid any test­ing of the bound­aries. There’s clear­ly a large seg­ment of the pub­lic that’s ready to jail any­one who jacks up the price of a des­per­ate­ly need­ed treat­ment.

Harp­er’s mag­a­zine helped il­lus­trate that point when they ran ex­cerpts from the com­ments made by po­ten­tial ju­rors in the Mar­tin Shkre­li case. Shkre­li is no­to­ri­ous for rais­ing the price of Dara­prim by more than 5000%, and some of the prospec­tive ju­rors were clear­ly ready to send him right be­hind bars — with­out any need for a tri­al.

Iron­i­cal­ly, Shkre­li was nev­er charged with any­thing re­lat­ed to pric­ing, be­cause there are no re­stric­tions in the law on what you charge for a drug. What he was charged with, and re­cent­ly found guilty on three counts, was fraud re­lat­ed to ly­ing to his hedge fund in­vestors. He’ll be sen­tenced lat­er this year. But here’s what some mem­bers of the pub­lic had to say as they rel­ished the idea of lock­ing him up and throw­ing away the key.

I boiled the re­marks down to a litany of curs­es.

JU­ROR NO. 1: I think he’s a greedy lit­tle man.

JU­ROR NO. 25: This is the price-goug­ing, right, of drugs?

JU­ROR NO. 40: I’m tak­ing pre­scrip­tion med­ica­tion. I would be up­set if it went up by a thou­sand per­cent. I saw the tes­ti­mo­ny on TV to Con­gress and I saw his face on the news last night. By the time I came in and sat down and he turned around, I felt im­me­di­ate­ly I was bi­ased.

JU­ROR NO. 47: He’s the most hat­ed man in Amer­i­ca. In my opin­ion, he equates with Bernie Mad­off with the drugs for preg­nant women go­ing from $15 to $750. My par­ents are in their eight­ies. They’re strug­gling to pay for their med­ica­tion. My moth­er was telling me yes­ter­day how my fa­ther’s can­cer drug is $9,000 a month.

JU­ROR NO. 52: When I walked in here to­day I looked at him, and in my head, that’s a snake — not know­ing who he was. I just walked in and looked right at him and that’s a snake.

JU­ROR NO. 67: The fact that he raised the price of that AIDS med­ica­tion, like, such an amount of mon­ey dis­gusts me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to for­get that. Who does that, puts prof­it and self-in­ter­est ahead of any­thing else? So it’s not a far stretch that he could do what he’s ac­cused of.

JU­ROR NO. 70: I have to­tal dis­dain for the man.

JU­ROR NO. 77: From every­thing I’ve seen on the news, every­thing I’ve read, I be­lieve the de­fen­dant is the face of cor­po­rate greed in Amer­i­ca.

JU­ROR NO. 125: I’ve read ex­ten­sive­ly about Mar­tin’s shame­ful past and his rip­ping off sick peo­ple and it hits close to me. I have a moth­er with epilep­sy, a grand­moth­er with Alzheimer’s, and a broth­er with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. I think some­body that’s dealt in those things de­serves to go to jail.

JU­ROR NO. 155: I have read a lot of ar­ti­cles about the case. I think he is as guilty as they come.

JU­ROR NO. 28: I don’t like this per­son at all. I just can’t un­der­stand why he would be so stu­pid as to take an an­tibi­ot­ic which H.I.V. peo­ple need and jack it up five thou­sand per­cent. I would hon­est­ly, like, se­ri­ous­ly like to go over there —

THE COURT: Sir, thank you.

JU­ROR NO. 28: Is he stu­pid or greedy? I can’t un­der­stand.


Im­age: Get­ty

John Hood [file photo]

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