The Big Lie, Pharma-Style (or Katie Porter is a National Treasure)

That’s a fair point. Financial statements are notoriously hard to comprehend and it’s certainly possible that Porter has the numbers wrong.

I skimmed through the document, but don’t know enough to contradict or support her.

But I really just wanted to comment that I noticed one of their other big products is Skyrizi. Which I’m only familiar with because my 6-year-old must have seen a bunch of their ads during his limited screen time. For a week solid he went around telling his Mom and I that he wanted to ask his doctor for some Skyrizi. I guess that marketing money really does work…

Not really. My experience with congressional testimony is that they’re controlled by the “questioners” who are not really asking questions but rather politicians making grandstanding political statements. (The goal being to get videos exactly like the one we’re discussing here.) Ms. Porter asked about litigations, then threw in the R&D number in almost an undertone, then moved on to another question about marketing in the same breath and Gonzalez responded to that. Especially since at the time she was tossing around the numbers he didn’t realize exactly where she was heading with it.

In addition, it’s not thought to be wise for CEOs testifying in congress to be too aggressive, lest they anger a lot of people who hold significant power over their companies. So many times it’s better to sit there meekly and suck it up, and then hope their lobbyists can work something out behind the scenes.

I’m not saying she was definitely making up a completely BS number. But until there’s some reasonable explanation, I would go with the company’s 10-K, which is audited by outside accountants and filed with the SEC, over anything some politician says.

ms porter is a national treasure. i do enjoy the way she asks questions, rather than grandstand like some rep.s. ask questions!

also, anyone who goes before congress should know about their company. i don’t have those numbers or i’ll get back to you? you should have your company’s information at hand. oop, just realized most of them think they could daydream while grandstanding is going on. who asks questions??!

I’m pretty sure Porter understands financial statements quite well. She has experience and training in bankruptcy law and was a state monitor of banks in CA. If she’s wrong, then she’s most likely taking something out of context.

Thank you for her background. I only knew of her from this thread and some comments that she was a bit of a Warren protoge. None of the news stories about this seem to question her claim, and neither did the CEO. It seems very odd that she could be off by a factor of 10 or more and him not correct her. Your idea that she just threw it in and he didn’t really want to make a big deal out of it is probably correct.

It does seem odd that she would flat-out lie, however. I’ll do some more digging - maybe she got the claim from some other source rather than the 10-K.

So a Medicare patient spends $5000 a years for this stuff, someone with no insurance might be charged $77,000, and I, with a solid job and not living on a fixed income, pay $5 a year. Not five thousand. Five.

Yeah, nothing wrong with our private health insurance system.

You should try to verify your facts.

If you look at the link I posted above about the copay assistance plan, there’s also a separate plan for people on Medicare. I don’t know the details (the person I was involved with was not on Medicare) but apparently there’s something for Medicare people as well.

Your assertion that someone with no insurance pays the full $77K is apparently also incorrect. The same link also says that someone who is unemployed or has no insurance can get the drug free.


I was using the link from @Jas09 for the Medicare numbers. Your link about the uninsured is reassuring.

So who pays $77,000?

This is all true. There are dozens of differently programs to help pay for drugs, from Meciare to Medicaid to various state plans to private insurance plans and drug add-ons. There are subscription plans and employer-sponsored plans. Vets can use the VA, but whether that is good or not depends entirely on what drugs they are on, and how close the nearest facility is.

I think if anything your comment reinforces the point that @Akaj was making. I don’t necessarily agree with him that “private health insurance” is necessarily the problem, as there are certainly countries with private health insurance systems that do a good job at price transparency and control.

But the US pharmaceutical market makes prices completely opaque to the consumer, to the point that what should be a simple question like “How much does Humira cost the patient?” is actually virtually unanswerable. That is not a sign of a healthy system.

What he said.

Probably nobody. Because the only person that could afford to do so would certainly have some sort of insurance coverage.

To me the risible part of AbbVie’s strategy isn’t necessarily the high cost - I get that miracle drugs need to make a profit for a good period of time or nobody would do the research. But the aggressive patent litigation and underhanded attempts to extend their monopoly position on the backs of patients expose the unseemly side of profit-based medicine. Especially when coupled with ridiculous amounts of advertising and marketing budget (did I mention my 6-year-old inundated with YouTube ads for Skyrizi?)

Though again, the programs I’ve linked to are paid for by AbbVie itself. Which suggests that the $77K may be some nominal cost that no one actually pays.

I agree. Though that’s broader than just Rx - insurance obscures the cost of all medical procedures to the end user. (There’s lately been a bit of a move in favor of reform in this particular area.)

Another related issue is Rx rebates, which are paid (by manufacturers) to the PBM and passed along to insurers but don’t always make their way back to the consumer. There’s been a push to reform things here as well.

FWIW, my own issue is the idea that the drug companies can charge Americans more than foreigners. I would favor a law making America a “most favored nation”, such that the lowest cost charged in any country is all they can charge in the US. (I have a vague recollection that the Trump administration may have been proposing something along those lines, but I don’t recall where that went.)

Foreign countries give themselves bargaining power by acting as a bloc.

Berating private enterprise executives to be community minded above seeking profits is pissing into the wind. It’s worse than useless. It just feeds into a populist narrative that distils the problem down to one of overpaid corporate baddies.

Only wholesale reform of the US health system to make it more socialist will solve the issue. And that doesn’t look like happening any time soon given that the s word is popular poison.

But that is a big part of the problem here: Corporate greed. Capitalism run amok. I’d say few people pay attention to just how bad the problem is – just as they struggle to appreciate the leviathan transfer of wealth from the vast majority of our citizens to only a few favored at the top.

These statements are true. But we’ve got to start somewhere, and talking about these things in simple, stark terms that communicate the problem to the public is important. More people in this country are becoming supportive of “socialism” without even realizing it, because they can see the inherent unfairness of the system as it is now. Ask them if they want socialism, and they’ll tell you no. Ask them if they want a health care system that takes better care of people than corporate profits, and you’ll get an entirely different answer. You know this.

So what else would you suggest, mate?

Right. So if we can’t solve that one just yet, what’s wrong with solving this one?

You know, just to keep our hand in.

Amazing. How did she prevent him from objecting? Was it mind control? Did she have his family kidnapped? Perhaps the person behind him held a knife or gun to his side hidden out of sight? Maybe he was really a body double? Also, what exactly is your “experience with congressional testimony”? :roll_eyes:

As the thread-creator wrote:

That is the point of Congressional hearings for members such as Katie Porter–that is, for the members who actually want to accomplish something for their constituents. And that something they are accomplishing is not “berating” business executives or promoting any particular characterization of business executives (as “baddies” or anything else).

The point of Porter’s questioning in hearings is to communicate to the American people.

And that is important because legislation to improve matters can happen only if voters support it, and they won’t support it if they don’t understand or even see the problem. The particular problem under discussion in this thread is that for decades, now, the pharmaceutical industry has successfully communicated a lie: namely, that they should not be subjected to regulation (or taxes!) because of the supposedly-massive amounts they are spending on Research and Development.

And as Porter’s questioning revealed, actual spending on R&D is far less important to this company, AbbVie, than AbbVie would like voters to believe.

Porter, in this and other hearings, is exposing the lies that have permitted the status quo to chug along for so many years, transferring wealth from ordinary Americans to the top 1% in a way that has made our nation less secure and less productive. (And note that she does so with specifics–with checkable facts–not with generalizations or “grandstanding”.)

Pick the guy who has never been cross examined. Getting your point of view across fairly while being cross examined by someone who is skilled at it is damn hard. I’ve personally known many a self-confident, knowledgeable, smart person come out of their first cross examination white faced saying they had no idea how hard it was going to be.

It’s easy to sit in your chair and say he should have objected. When being sort of Gish Galloped* by someone with the bully pulpit it’s a damn sight harder.

As the only person to pick this, I think Czarcasm, you might want to give Fotheringay-Phipps a bit more credit about his analysis of what occurred. Porter played every person in this thread except Fotheringay-Phipps.

*[To be clear, I don’t doubt that Porter’s figures are accurate or mostly so. So I’m not suggesting she was Gish Galloping literally. But the technique of rushing through a bunch of stuff so that the witness is swept off their feet is similar, and similarly hard to combat in a “live” situation]

I watched the same event, so I am not giving him any credit for his “analysis”.