We called Martin Shkreli and asked him point blank about the drug price scandal -- here's what he said

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has not shied away from the public eye after being called out for raising the price of a critical drug by 5,000%.

Ahead of the Democratic presidential debate, where drug pricing is likely to be a key issue, we decided to catch up with Shkreli about his recent decision to hike the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat parasitic infections in people with compromised immune systems, from $US13.50 to $US750 a pill.

Here’s what he had to say:

This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity, and it’s abridged.

Business Insider: What’s the status on the updated price of Daraprim?

Shkreli: In essence, we do think it’s possible that we’ll lower the price. We have to understand better what the demand is. We need to get our money back. It will be depending on our level of profitability, as I’ve said before. We will either make a small profit or break even as a company. We don’t want excessive profiteering. But the key word in profiteering is profit. We’re not profitable right now. Every big pharma company…needs millions. Turing doesn’t make a profit.

Until we figure out demand, we won’t lower the price. We looked at our earnings, we have to find a safe price to lower it to.

We spent months thinking about this price. Anyone who thinks we’re going to lower it to the original … it’s not sustainable.

BI: What do you have to say about the tuberculosis drug that was also called out in a recent New York Times article for its raised price whose company changed its price back basically within the day?

Shkreli: There are some people who have a low tolerance for criticism. I’m not one of those people. I do what’s right for our patients, physicians, and shareholders. I can’t comment on what another company is doing.

There have been hundreds of companies that have raised [their drug prices] higher, and they’re not rolling back their prices, so why should we?

BI: Are you planning to respond to the letter that Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent to your company requesting more info about your drug price?

I’m not sure, I don’t even think about them.

BI: So is it possible, that, after figuring out a new price based on demand, that the price of Daraprim remains at $US750 a pill?

Shkreli: Certainly our research prior indicated that it was. I think we will bring it down, but I don’t know by how much. I’d be surprised if we didn’t bring it down a little bit just to do that. My hunch is if someone’s spent a lot of time, and understands this, they would agree [$US750 a pill] the right price. I bet you would.

BI: You’ve tweeted and interacted with all of this a lot on a personal level, which is not something all pharmaceutical CEOs do. What’s your reasoning behind that?

Shkreli: I think it’s very important to be yourself.

Most of the drug CEOs I know, they’re not themselves, they’re what people want them to be. It’s pretty obvious of the different drug executives. They’re old white men, very buttoned up, they’re appropriate so to speak. I’m a little bit more irreverent, and I’m not going to change just because i have this job.

I’ve been a jerk on the Internet since the Internet started. I’m not going to stop since I’ve had this success.

NOW WATCH: This is what 2,000 calories actually looks like

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.