Rep. Katie Porter Makes Pharma Exec Squirm Over Cancer Drug Price Hikes

Johnny Nguyen 01:05

The congresswoman relentlessly grilled the former Celgene CEO for earning bonuses off the backs of cancer patients.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and her trusty whiteboard are at it again.

The congresswoman delivered one of her textbook takedowns during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing Wednesday with current and former executives of three major drug companies. The committee is investigating the high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S.

Porter began her grilling of Mark Alles, who served as CEO of Celgene until 2019, by asking about the company’s repeated price hikes of the cancer drug Revlimid. It now costs $763 a pill ― up from $215 in 2005. 

Alles explained that the drug was approved for new indications, but Porter stopped him to ask if that had changed the pill in any way.

“Did the drug start to work faster?” she asked. “Were there fewer side effects? How did you change the formula or production of Revlimid to justify this price increase?”

Alles said the manufacturing of the pill remained the same.

Porter then outlined how the average senior citizen in her district could not even afford one pill:

Next, she drew a new figure: $13 million ― referring to Alles’ salary as Celgene CEO in 2017.

“It’s 200 times the average American’s income and 360 times what the average senior gets on social security,” Porter said.

She then made some calculations about Alles’ bonus, which she reminded him was linked to the company’s yearly earnings.

“You personally received half a million dollars just by tripling the price of Revlimid,” she said. “So to recap here, the drug didn’t get any better, the cancer patients didn’t get any better, you just got better at making money. You just refined your skills at price gouging.”

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