Porter brings back whiteboard to grill former pharma CEO on cancer drug price hike

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) went viral this week after grilling former Celgene CEO Mark Alles over his compensation and the price of cancer drug Revlimid during a committee hearing.

Using her now-signature whiteboard board, Porter pointed out that the price of the drug, which is approved to treat the blood cancer multiple myeloma, has spiked from $412 per pill in 2005 to $763 per pill today. 

“I’m curious, did the drug get substantially more effective in that time? Did cancer patients need fewer pills?” Porter asked, after writing the price increases on a white board. 

The former CEO told the lawmaker that the manufacturing for the pill “would be the same” between 2005 and today.

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

She also grilled Alles on his compensation and bonuses tied to the drug.

Porter noted that Alles was paid $13 million in 2017, which she said is “360 times what the average senior gets on Social Security.” She added that Alles received millions in bonuses tied to increases for the company and that he received $500,000 in bonuses due to the price increase for 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 continued.

Porter and Alles’s exchange immediately went viral across social media.


Wednesday’s hearing focused on initial results from an 18-month investigation from the House Oversight Committee. A committee staff report found that executives at pharmaceutical companies raised prices for no reason other than boosting profits and inflating bonuses.

Internal documents found that the price of Revlimid was increased 22 times. In 2014, Alles ordered an emergency price increase so that Celgene could meet revenue targets.

House Democrats also pressed executives from pharmaceutical companies Bristol Myers Squibb and Teva.

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