By Sarah Ferris - 03/17/16 12:51 PM EDT
Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenClinton widens lead over Trump nationally Economic turmoil threatens Clinton Economic turmoil threatens Clinton MORE (D-Mass.) on Thursday came out swinging against top executives at Turing Pharmaceuticals, condemning “unethical” drug pricing under former CEO Martin Shkreli.
The company's pricing practices spurred a national firestorm after it raised the price of a decades-old drug called Daraprim by 5,000 percent overnight.
“Almost no patient pays that price,” Turing interim CEO Ronald Tilles said during a heated back-and-forth with Warren at a Senate Aging Committee hearing on Thursday.
“Saying ‘almost’ is not very good if it’s your child who’s in trouble,” Warren said. “You can’t just shove this off. You have people who can’t afford it.”
While Tilles said he could “admit” that the price has gone up, he refused to say the cost increase was unethical.
Shkreli, the company’s former lightning rod CEO, has since stepped down after facing federal fraud charges separate from his work at the company.
Shkreli, who was called to testify at a House committee earlier this year, infuriated lawmakers by smirking during their questions and taking to Twitter to condemn them minutes after he left the hearing room. Much of his former coworkers’ appearance at the Senate on Thursday was doing damage control.
“What’s done is done, but going forward, we will make every effort to improve access,” Tilles said during an exchange with Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineOvernight Healthcare: Biggest abortion rights win in 25 years | Justice Kennedy again steps to the left McConnell tees up House Puerto Rico bill Abortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate MORE (D-Va.). “We feel we are moving in a good direction at this point.”
Warren, a frequent critic of “big pharma,” said all drug companies have a responsibility to limit the costs of drugs.
“It was unethical when Turing did it, and it was just as unethical when the rest of the pharmaceutical industry jacks up drug prices, and they routinely did it,” Warren said.