Katie Porter and her Whiteboard Destroy Pharma CEO Over Drug Prices
Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing on prescription drug prices was wild and the star of the show was California Democratic Representative Katie Porter’s legendary whiteboard.
Porter and her colleagues on the Committee grilled AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzales over the astronomical cost of prescription drugs – such as Humira, a biologic, and Imbruvica, a cancer drug – that are manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant.
Porter had all of her facts and figures on hand, including pre-written flash cards to be displayed on her whiteboard. The Congresswoman blasted Gonzales for the amount of money AbbVie spends on shareholders and marketing instead of research and development, which the company insists is the primary driver of increased drug prices.
Gonzales imploded when he was unable to tell Porter how much AbbVie spent on stock buybacks and dividends from 2013 to 2018. But Porter already knew the answer – a dizzying $50 billion.
Porter showed him no mercy:
So Mr. Gonzalez, you’re spending all this money to make sure you make money, rather than spending money to invest in, develop drugs and help patients with affordable, life-saving drugs. You lie to patients when you charge them twice as much for an unimproved drug and then you lie to policymakers when you tell us that R&D justifies those price increases. The Big Pharma fairytale is one of groundbreaking R&D that justifies astronomical prices, but the pharma reality is that you spend most of your company’s money making money for yourself and your shareholders. And the fact that you’re not honest about this with policyholders – that you’re feeding us lies that we must pay astronomical prices to get ‘innovative products’ – is false. The American people, the patients, deserve so much better.
Big Pharma says they need to charge astronomical prices to pay for research and development. Yet, the amount they spend on manipulating the market to enrich shareholders completely eclipses what's spent on R&D. Today, I confronted a CEO about the industry's lies, with visuals ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/c3jSLr0yVd
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) May 18, 2021
Later in the hearing, Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) tore into Gonzalez for not taking responsibility for the prices that his company demands.
“AbbVie’s CEO Mr. Gonzalez sought to cast blame on others for AbbVie’s high prices. But the facts showed that AbbVie raised prices on Americans for one simple reason: greed,” said Maloney.
Gonzalez was also pressed by Republican Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana over why drug prices are so much higher in the United States than in Europe.
“How can you defend American prices of pharmaceuticals overseas versus the prices on drugs in the nation that you love? Your answers to the chair were evasive at best and appear to be obviously written by attorneys,” Higgins said.
Gonzalez gave a surprising yet satisfying answer.
“The short answer is outside the United States you have socialized health care systems,” Gonzales replied. “That does force the U.S. to pay far more of the innovation costs of our industry. That is a reality.”