Democrat Katie Porter accuses pharma CEO of inflating drug prices and ‘lying’ to patients and policymakers – all with the help of her whiteboard

Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) sits on the House Financial Services Committee.
Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) sits on the House Financial Services Committee.

  • Rep. Katie Porter grilled AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez over why the pharmaceutical giant’s drug prices have risen.
  • The California Democrat used a whiteboard and paper cut-outs to illustrate her argument.
  • Porter has become well-known for using her “whiteboard of justice” to grill CEOs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, accused AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez of lying to Americans and policymakers about why the pharmaceutical giant has dramatically increased the prices of some of its most popular drugs during a Tuesday House Oversight Committee hearing.

Using a whiteboard and paper cut-outs to illustrate her points, Porter argued that the pharma company falsely claimed that it raised the prices of its drugs in order to fund increased investments in research and development. She pointed out that the company spent just $2.45 billion on research and development between 2013 and 2018, while it spent $4.7 billion on marketing and advertising, and $50 billion on stock buybacks and dividends.

“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,” she said. “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.”

She added, “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.”

The House Committee released a report on Tuesday finding that AbbVie raked in billions in revenue by raising the prices of two of its drugs – Humira and Imbruvica – in the US over the last 20 years. Since 2003, AbbVie has raised the price of Humira – which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Chron’s, among other autoimmune and gastrointestinal illnesses – by over 470% with 27 individual price increases, according to the report. AbbVie has earned more than $20 billion in revenue annually for the last three years for Humira alone, making it the pharma industry’s best-selling drug.

A spokesman for AbbVie didn’t respond immediately to Insider’s request for comment.

Porter, who taught bankruptcy and commercial law at several law schools before running for office, has become well-known for using her “whiteboard of justice” to grill CEOs. A single mother, Porter says she also uses her whiteboard to keep her kids in line at the dinner table with a list of rules.

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Rep. Katie Porter calls Biden’s move to split up his infrastructure package ‘a big mistake’

katie porter
Representative Katie Porter (D-CA).

  • Rep. Katie Porter of California called Biden’s move to split his infrastructure plan ‘a big mistake.’
  • She argued Democrats should merge family policies into a large infrastructure plan.
  • Last month, Biden noted that 2 millions women had left the workforce since the pandemic started.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California called President Joe Biden’s decision to split up his infrastructure plan into separate jobs and family components a major error.

“This idea that there are two separate buckets, a bucket of American Jobs Plan … and this idea he has a second plan coming soon that he’s called the American Families Plan. I told the White House, ‘I think this is a big mistake,'” she said in an Axios interview published Friday.

She continued: “I think it’s mislabeling what you know as president to be true, which is that all of this is about our economy and economic recovery.”

“Strong family policy is strong jobs policy,” she said. Porter previously expressed a fear that women could be left behind in the Biden plan, CNBC reported.

Biden recently unveiled a $2.3 trillion public-works plan, the first of two plans aimed at upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. The plan contains new funds to repair deteriorating roads and bridges, eliminate lead pipes from water systems, and widen the reach of broadband networks.

The second part will be known as the American Family Plan, a package expected to contain a multi-trillion investment into childcare and education. Republicans are strongly critical of the Democratic infrastructure push, arguing that its tax hikes would slam into the economy.

Last month, Biden noted that 2 millions women had left the workforce since the pandemic started.

“A lot of that is because so much extra weight of caregiving and responsibility is falling on their shoulders,” he said at a White House event. “It causes women to miss work, cut hours, and leave their jobs and care for their children and aging loved ones.”

“How many men are staying home and doing it, and the woman’s staying in the workforce?” he asked.

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Rep. Katie Porter recalls AOC hiding in her office during the Capitol siege, saying she told her: ‘I hope I don’t die today’

aoc katie porter
  • Rep. Katie Porter recalled when she and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hid from rioters during the Capitol siege.
  • “I said, ‘I’m a mom, don’t worry I’ve got everything I need, we can live for like a month in this office,'” Porter said Monday.
  • Porter added: “And she said, ‘I just hope I get to be a mom, I hope I don’t die today.'”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Katie Porter recalled the moment in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hid in her office during the Capitol siege as rioters broke into the Capitol to look for her.

During an Instagram Live on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez shared her harrowing experience after insurrectionists breached the US Capitol on January 6. The congresswoman shared with viewers that she took refuge in Porter’s office as she heard some rioters yelling, “Where is she?”

“I start ripping through Katie’s office like a madwoman,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the Instagram Live. “Poor Katie, I’m opening every closet, I’m opening every nook, I’m opening every cranny looking for where I’m going to hide when they get into this office.”

“I mean, I thought I was going to die,” the congresswoman continued.

Porter corroborated Ocasio-Cortez’s story during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, adding that, in the moment, the New York congresswoman is “really usually unfailingly polite and very personable and she wasn’t really even talking to me.”

“She was opening up doors, and I was like, ‘Can I help you? What are you looking for?'” the California congresswoman said. “And she said, ‘I’m looking for places to hide.'”

Porter went on to describe two “powerful” conversations she had with Ocasio-Cortez as she took refuge in her office.

“The two memories that really, especially as a mom, I think, were just especially powerful for me, was when I said, ‘I’m a mom, don’t worry I’ve got everything I need, we can live for like a month in this office,'” Porter said during the interview. “And she said, ‘I just hope I get to be a mom, I hope I don’t die today.'”

“The second thing is that she was wearing heels, and I was wearing flats, and I remember her saying to me, ‘I knew I shouldn’t have worn heels. How am I supposed to run?'” Porter added. “And we found her a pair of sneakers to wear from one of my staffers so that she could run if she needed to literally run for her life.”

 

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