December 3, 2020

Rep. Katie Porter ripped into pharma executive Mark Alles for repeated price hikes on the cancer drug Revlimid

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  • Rep. Katie Porter tore into Celgene CEO Mark Alles on Wednesday over price hikes on a cancer drug.
  • Porter grilled the CEOs of Teva, Celgene, and Bristol Myers Squibb as part of a House investigation into the pricing of Teva’s multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone and Bristol Myers Squibb’s multiple-myeloma drug Revlimid.
  • During a Wednesday congressional hearing, Porter, a former consumer-protection attorney, used a whiteboard to illustrate points such as how much money the CEO made, how much a single pill of Revlimid cost over the years, and how much his bonus was as a result.
  • Alles confirmed that the manufacturing for the drug remained the same amid price increases but said the drug was approved for new uses.
  • “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,” Porter replied.
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Rep. Katie Porter of California grilled Celgene CEO Mark Alles on Wednesday over price hikes on a cancer drug that she said resulted in a bonus of half a million dollars for the pharma executive.

Alles appeared before the House oversight committee alongside the CEOs of Teva and Bristol Myers Squibb as part of a House investigation into the pricing of Teva’s multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone and Bristol Myers Squibb’s multiple-myeloma drug Revlimid. Alles served as CEO of Celgene before it was acquired by Bristol Myers Squibb in 2019.

“Since launching Revlimid in 2005, Celgene raised the price of the drug 22 times, from $215 per pill to $719 per pill,” according to documents from the House oversight committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “After Bristol Myers Squibb obtained the rights to Revlimid last November, it raised the price of Revlimid again, to $763 per pill. Due to these price increases, a monthly course of Revlimid is priced at $16,023 today — more than triple the 2005 price.”

During the congressional hearing Wednesday, Porter, a former consumer-protection attorney, tore into Alles, writing key figures in her questions — such as how much the CEO made, how much a single pill of Revlimid cost over the years, and how much his bonus was as a result — on a whiteboard to striking effect.

“Did the drug start to work faster?” Porter said. “Were there fewer side effects? How did you change the formula or production of Revlimid to justify this price increase?” Alles confirmed that the manufacturing for the drug remained the same but said the drug was approved for new uses.

Porter went on to note that Alles was compensated $13 million in 2017 when he was CEO of Celgene and that he received a $500,000 bonus over the past two years that she credited to the company hiking the price of Revlimid.

“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,” Porter said.

Porter was joined by two fellow freshman lawmakers — Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ayanna Pressley — in pressing the other CEOs at the hearing as part of an 18-month investigation into the drug-price hikes.