Rep. Katie Porter gives pharma executive the “whiteboard” treatment


In her short political career, Rep. Katie Porter has quickly acquired a reputation for her fierce interrogation of congressional witnesses. Just ask former Celgene CEO Mark Alles.

In a video that has gone viral, Porter is shown confronting the pharmaceutical executive on Wednesday over his financial compensation during a hearing on runaway drug prices. The California Democrat said Celgene more than tripled the price of cancer drug Revlimid to $765 a pill, from $215 in 2005, without significantly improving the treatment. Alles received a $500,000 bonus connected to higher profits from Revlimid in the last two years he served as chief executive of Celgene, Porter said.

“Do you know what this number is,” Porter asked Alles after writing the figure “$13 million” on a whiteboard at her side. Alles responded that he didn’t know but that it looked like his compensation. 

“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,” Porter said.

The video cuts off before Alles is able to respond. Earlier in the hearing, the executive, who joined Celgene in 2004 and became its CEO in 2016, called Revlimid “one of the most clinically important therapies discovered by Celgene.” He also said the company had invested $800 million in developing Revlimid and “hundreds of millions” more after it was approved by regulators in 2005. 

“I have strived to bring the values of integrity, service and respect to every part of my career,” Alles said in his testimony.

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