Pharma CEO squirms as Katie Porter exposes his price-gouging scheme with her trusty whiteboard
via Katie Porter

Americans spend about $1,200 a year on average for prescription drugs. That's more than anywhere else in the world. Private insurers and government programs pick up the bulk of the costs which we then pay through higher taxes and insurance premiums.

A major reason why Americans pay so much more than other countries is that the U.S government isn't allowed to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

To better understand the underlying reasons for these astronomical prices, the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee held hearings on Wednesday with current and former executives of three major drug companies.

Democratic Representative Katie Porter from Orange County, California proved to be the star of the hearing for how she clearly explained how price gouging works using a whiteboard and the testimony of former Celgene CEO Mark Alles.

via Revlimid

Celgene launched a cancer drug called Revlimid in 2005 at a price of $215 per pill. After more than 20 price hikes, the drug now costs $763 per pill or $16,023 per month. According to Porter, the price increases have cost American taxpayers over $3 billion.

While drug companies commonly cite research and development costs as a reason for raising prices. An investigation found that the CEO repeatedly raised the price to help the company meet revenue goals.

The investigation also found the company was profiting from a drug that was developed using taxpayer funds. According to the investigation the company "relied heavily on taxpayer-funded academic research to develop Revlimid, and its internal pricing decisions appear to have been unrelated to past or future investment in research and development."

Rep. Porter grills Big Pharma CEO for price gougingwww.youtube.com

Porter opened her questioning by remarking how Revlimid price increases seem to counter traditional economic logic.

"I'm curious, did the drug get substantially more effective in that time? Did cancer patients need fewer pills?" she asked. "How did you change the formula for the production of Revlimid to justify this price increase?"

Alles responded with a non-answer: "The indication changes are for subsets of different patients with disease."

She then pushed him again, asking how the drug improved over the past seven years.

He admitted that the manufacturing for the pill was "the same."

Porter then brilliantly related the price increase to the financial situation of her constituents. "So, to put that in perspective, you hiked the price by $500 when the average Orange County senior only has $528 left in their bank account after they've paid their basic monthly expenses," Porter said.

While the CEO claimed that no one pays the list price, she asked about uninsured people. He said he could "imagine" that there were uninsured or underinsured people who have probably paid the list price.

via Katie Porter

Porter finished her presentation by tying the price increases to Alles' paycheck. As CEO, Alles made $13 million a year, 360 times the average person on social security.

"Any increase in the price of Revlimid would also increase your bonus by increasing earnings. Isn't that right Mr. Alles? she asked. "That was a part of the calculation of my compensation." the CEO agreed.

Porter then showed how the CEO has made $500,000 over the past two years in bonuses by raising the price of the cancer drug.

"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!" she stated.


FIRST students compete in a robotics challenge.


Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

Keep ReadingShow less

Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

Keep ReadingShow less

Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being...are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

Keep ReadingShow less

Ring footage shows Adrian Rodriguez returning a lost purse.

At Upworthy, we are always looking to share the best of humanity and there are few things that reveal someone’s good character quite like when they do good when no one is watching. A recent story from Chula Vista, California, celebrates a teenager who went out of his way to return a woman’s lost purse.

According to NBC News San Diego, Eliana Martin was shopping at Ralph’s supermarket when she accidentally left her purse in a shopping cart in the parking lot. After she left the store, she realized she had lost her purse and began frantically canceling her credit cards.

Shortly after Martin left the parking lot, a recent high school graduate, Adrian Rodriquez, 17, found her purse in the cart. Rodriguez searched the purse to look for an identification card to find where she lived so he could return it to her. He then drove over to the address on the identification card, where Melina Marquez, Martin's former roommate, currently lives.

Marquez wasn’t home so Rodriguez left the purse with a relative. Marquez later saw video of the drop-off on the family’s Ring doorbell camera.

“I looked into the Ring camera, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. He’s such a young kid.’ I was like, ‘We need to find him and just give him a little piece of gratitude.’” Marquez told NBC San Diego.

Keep ReadingShow less