‘You just refined your skills at price gouging’: Moment politician took down former pharma boss with ‘whiteboard of truth’

‘If you hadn’t increased the price of revlimid you wouldn’t have got your bonus’

Louise Hall
Thursday 01 October 2020 18:37
Congresswoman scolds pharma executive for hiking the price of cancer drug

California congresswoman Katie Porter has gone viral after launching a scathing interrogation of a former big pharma boss using her “whiteboard of truth” to question him about price hikes of cancer medication.

Democrat Rep Porter, a consumer protection lawyer and former professor, used her now-infamous board as part of her cross-examination of former Celgene CEO Mark Alles on Wednesday.

"Do you know what this number is?" she asked Mr Alles, writing the sum of $13m that reflected the former boss’s compensation in marker on the board.

The figure, Rep Porter pointed out, is 200 times the average American’s income and 360 times the sum the average senior citizen gets on social security.

The congresswoman went on to break down how the hike of Celgene’s cancer drug revlimid contributed to the rise of Mr Alles’s compensation through bonuses.

“Any increase in the price of revlimid would also increase your bonus by increasing earnings, isn’t that right Mr Alles?” Rep Porter asked before going on to state that the company had tripled the price of the drug since 2005 without any change to the product itself.

“If you hadn’t increased the price of revlimid you wouldn’t have got your bonus,” she said. “To recap: 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."

Rep Porter has become famous online for her cross-examinations of high profile figures with one Twitter user having dubbed her visual aide the “whiteboard of truth”. 

A clip of the interaction quickly went viral and had amassed almost 17m views and over 115,000 retweets as of Thursday with many users praising Rep Porter.

“No one has ever wielded a weapon as terrifying as Katie Porter’s whiteboard. This is just a fact," posted Molly Wood, a public radio journalist.

“If you ever wonder why certain types of men don't want to elevate women into power, this, right here, is why,” said Julie Zebrak a political consultant and organiser. “This is what they fear: Katie Porter calls BS and has the receipts and it is a glorious sight to behold.”

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