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.