Ex-Turing CEO Martin Shkreli: US healthcare costs are up because of physicians, not drug prices

Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli gained notoriety in the healthcare industry for raising the price of Daraprim, a generic anti-parasite drug for treating toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight. Despite immense public pushback, Mr. Shkreli says he doesn't regret a thing.

When asked if he would do it all over again, Mr. Shkreli told Bloomberg last week, "Of course." He added, "Everybody's doing it. In capitalism, you try to get the highest price that you can for a product."

Mr. Shkreli also said drug prices are not to blame for the U.S.'s growing healthcare costs. "Drug pricing is only a small part of healthcare expenditures," Mr. Shkreli told Bloomberg. "Physicians are the biggest part. We don't talk about physicians. Their prices are rising as fast, or faster, than drug prices, as are hospitals' and medical device companies' [prices]."

While drug costs are not currently the largest line item on the U.S. healthcare bill, they are growing rapidly. Prescription drug spending accounted for 9.8 percent of overall health spending in 2014, and it is expect it to hit 10.4 percent by 2024, according to a report from The Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation. However, drug prices increased 12.2 percent in 2014, the highest growth rate in a decade, according to a study published by Health Affairs. This pace of change is more than double the growth rate of overall healthcare spending, which was pegged at 5.3 percent in 2014 by CMS' Office of the Actuary.

Mr. Shkreli further defended the Daraprim price hike by saying insurers, not patients, are the ones paying the elevated prices. And while he admitted the increased prices would ultimately translate into higher premiums for patients, Mr. Shkreli said spending more on healthcare isn't all bad.

"As GDPs grow — and we're [the U.S.] at the top of the pack; we're the leader — what I think happens is we learn as a society what we prize in life is our health," Mr. Shkreli told Bloomberg. "We are going to spend more and more on our health than ever before, and that's a good thing. I think it's a mark of a civilized country."

See the full interview here.


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