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article imageBernie Sanders rejects pharma CEO Martin Shkreli's donation

By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi     Oct 17, 2015 in Politics
Washington - Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaign received a maximum individual donation of $2,700 from Mark Shkreli, Turing Pharmaceutical CEO, who's been branded as the Big Pharma "poster boy" by a Sander's staffer.
When Sanders campaign initially received the donation from Shkreli on Sept. 28, staff didn't recognize the CEO's name. Campaigners sent a generic email response.
Our political system is corrupt. Big Money controls much of what happens. Together, you and I are changing that. Thank you again for your support. Best, Bernie.
Apparently, the thank you was premature. On Thursday, campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said Sanders won't keep the money; it was sent to the Whitman-Walker health clinic in Washington, a treatment center for HIV/AIDS patients. Briggs added, "He [Shkreli] is the poster boy for pharmaceutical company greed. We don't want his stinkin' money."
Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of Daraprim, a life-saving treatment for malaria and toxoplasmosis (a parasitic disease) by over 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 for a single pill. This caused a public outcry and intense dislike of Shkreli. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called the CEO a "spoiled brat."
Name calling and opposition has not caused Shkreli to back down, and he referred to his actions as "a great thing for society." His reason for sending the donation to Sanders was to get the candidate's attention and meet with him to explain the necessity for the high cost of medicine.
On Monday, Shkreli challenged both Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the choice between reducing the cost of Daraprim or using the monetary gains to develop better treatment. During Tuesday's presidential debate, Shkreli tweeted about his donation to Sanders.
When a Twitter responder asked how much of Turing's budget is used for research, Shkreli answered, "all of it." However, a 2014 FiercePharma study indicates that nine out of 10 pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than research.
In a Friday interview, Shkreli said he likes Sanders' passion and stand on some issues — but not the ones on drug pricing. The CEO's favorite Sanders endorsements are free public college and better mental health care.
"I think it’s cheap to use one person’s action as a platform without kind of talking to that person," Shrekli said. "He’ll take my money, but he won’t engage with me for five minutes to understand this issue better."
Shkreli shared his feelings on Hillary Clinton.
I don’t think she really stands for anything. At least Bernie’s passionate and really kind of provocative. I met Hillary years ago. I didn’t like her then, I still don’t like her now.
Technically, the Sanders campaign did accept Shkreli's donation, but redirected it to a health care facility. Patients with compromised immune systems can develop toxoplasmosis, and, $2,700 will buy nearly four Daraprim tablets.
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