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 gouging www.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.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

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You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

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Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

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Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

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Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

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Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

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Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.