COLUMBIA, SC — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has no idea what he would do to combat rising drug prices, but he does know how to launch a vicious personal attack.
In a press conference in Columbia, South Carolina on Wednesday, Trump sharply criticized the former hedge fund manager who has become known as the “Pharma bro,” telling ThinkProgress the man is a “disgrace” and a “spoiled brat.”
“This young guy raised the price to a level that’s absolutely ridiculous and he looks like a spoiled brat doing it,” he told ThinkProgress. “You want to know the truth? He looks like a spoiled brat. And he’s a hedge fund guy — as you know, the only one who I’m raising taxes for. They’re going to be paying up. But I thought it was a disgusting thing what he did.”
The CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, has attracted attention since he hiked by 5,000 percent the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat severe infections in AIDS patients and infants. He has since backed down as a result of the outrage, saying there were “mistakes made” and that he would lower the cost.
While an extreme example, the Pharma bro’s action highlights the bigger issue of rising pharmaceutical drug prices in the United States — an issue other presidential candidates have recently addressed. Trump, however, was unable to propose a solution.
“It’s terrible,” he said when ThinkProgress asked him what he would do to combat rising drug prices. “But particularly there’s something about that one — the way he raised it and to that extent. And then he sat back smug, like he was hot stuff. That guy is nothing. He is zero. He is nothing.”
When pressed on what he would do to address the issue, he again avoided the question. “Probably at some point the public is going to get him to reduce it somewhat,” he said. “But I think what he did was a disgrace. I’m sure you feel the same way.”
The Darapim price hike is not uncommon — Judith Aberg, a spokesperson for the HIV Medicine Association, told USA Today that every week she learns about another drug that has increased in price because of a change in marketing or the distributor. Recent studies have found that more Americans are cutting back in other areas because they’re having a hard time paying for their prescriptions.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both recently released plans to take on the rapidly increasing prices of pharmaceutical drugs. Clinton tweeted about the pharma bro on Monday and then announced on Tuesday her plan to cap out-of-pocket drug costs and decrease the monopoly marketing period for biologics, among other measures. Sanders linked to the recent news about Daraprim on his campaign website alongside a link to his plan to lower drug costs. And earlier this month, Sanders introduced a bill that would allow patients to import cheaper drugs from Canada.
Trump has been criticized for his inability to answer questions on actual issues. He has released a small number of policy papers including a recent one on guns which is indistinguishable from the National Rifle Association’s agenda. In a town hall with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) Wednesday night, he promised the audience that he’ll soon be releasing a tax plan that is “very long on policy.”
He also is not known for his fair business practices — he has run a scam university without a license and, despite his disdain for undocumented immigrants, hired many of them to build his newest hotel. He has also made millions of dollars by extolling a marketing company that has faced regulatory investigations in three countries for running a pyramid scheme and for deceptive trade practices.