“WHAT’S PAST IS PROLOGUE” Big Pharma’s Track Record Is A Vast Departure From Its Rhetoric: Part I

Jan 23, 2019
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Lauren Blair
(201) 213-5004
With 80 percent of Americans viewing the drug pricing crisis as the top priority for Congress to tackle this year, it should not come as a surprise that the focus of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s first oversight hearing is out-of-control drug prices.

In advance of the hearing on January 29, 2019, the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) is rolling out a new blog series on what lawmakers can expect to hear from pharmaceutical companies.

As we take a look back at the unkept pledges, proclamations and promises Big Pharma has made, lawmakers should remember William Shakespeare’s famous line: “what’s past is prologue.”

Today we’ll see how the rhetoric matches up with the track records of AbbVie, the maker of the world’s best-selling drug, Humira; Celgene, the maker Revlimid, a widely-used drug for cancer patients; and Mallinckrodt, the maker of Acthar, a specialty drug best known for treating rare, sometimes fatal, infantile diseases.


AbbVie’s Rhetoric:

  • “At AbbVie, We Believe Patients Need Access To Quality And Affordable Medicines.” (“Our Commitment To Access ToMedicines,” AbbVie, Accessed 1/16/19)
  • “Operating Responsibly. It’s The Very Basis Of How AbbVie Does Business. We Are Committed To Cultivating An Ethical, Transparent And Inclusive Culture To Drive Sustainable Growth.”(“Our Company,”AbbVie, Accessed 1/16/19)
  • “We Work With Governments And Other Stakeholders To Make Our Products Available At Prices Appropriate To Each Marketplace.” “AbbVie strives to design pricing strategies for each country that consider economic development, disease burden and health systems, maximizing access to needed medicines while enabling us to operate our business in a sustainable manner. We work with governments and other stakeholders to make our products available at prices appropriate to each marketplace.” (“Our Commitment To Access To Medicines,” AbbVie, Accessed 1/16/19)

AbbVie’s Record: 

  • In September 2018, AbbVie’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Chase Boasted About Extending Humira’s U.S. Monopoly Saying, “You’ve Seen Us Execute Very Nicely With Our Legal Strategy And The Settlements Around The U.S. Events To Delay The Onset Of [Loss Of Humira’s Exclusivity] Into The 2022-2023 Time Period.” “Cheaper versions of Humira are hitting European markets next month, and a top AbbVie executive is celebrating two separate deals that would prevent that from happening in the U.S. – where Humira’s annual costs are as much as a high-end car – for five years.” (Bob Herman, “AbbVie Boasts Of Extending Humira’s U.S. Monopoly,” Axios, 9/12/18)
  • With “More Than 100 Patents” Filed Under Humira, “Not A Single Competitor Has Launched A Copycat.” “The more than 100 patents AbbVie has secured over Humira’s lifetime make it difficult for another company to replicate the drug without using processes and techniques to which the pharma giant continues to hold rights.” (Cynthia Koons, “This Shield Of Patents Protects The World’s Best-Selling Drug,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 9/7/17)


Celgene’s Rhetoric:

  • “We Believe No Patient Should Be Denied Access To The Treatments They Need Just Because They Can’t Afford Them.” (Berkeley Lovelace, “House Democrats Launch Drug-Pricing Probe Into A Dozen Major Health-Care Companies,” CNBC, 1/14/19)
  • “After Spending Many Years And Significant Resources To Discover And Develop Innovative New Therapies, Our Greatest Priority Is Ensuring That Patients Have Access To Them.” “At Celgene, our long-standing purpose is to change the course of human health through bold pursuits in science and a promise to always put patients first.” (Mark Alles, “Enabling Innovation And Creating Value,” Celgene, 6/25/18)

Celgene’s Record:

  • Celgene “Boosted The Price Of Its Top-Selling Cancer Drug, Revlimid, By 37 Percent Over Three Years.” (Robert Langreth, Cynthia Koons & Jackie Gu, “After Raising Prices for 100s of Drugs, Industry Pledges Restraint,” Bloomberg, 7/16/18)
  • Between January 2017 And July 2018, Celgene Raised The Price Of Its Cancer Drug Revlimid By Almost 25 Percent.(Meg Terrill, Twitter, 7/10/18)
  • A Month’s Supply Of Revlimid In 2006 Was $6,195 And By March 2017 The Price Had Reached $16,691.(Alison Kodjak, “How A Drugmaker Gamed The System To Keep Generic Competition Away,” NPR, 5/17/18)


Mallinckrodt’s Rhetoric:

  • “Mallinckrodt’s Pledge To America: Create The Best Possible Healthcare At The Lowest Possible Cost For The Greatest Number Of People.” (“Pledge On Drug Pricing & Innovation,” Mallinckrodt, Accessed 1/16/19)
  • “We Will Price Our Innovative Products Responsibly, And In A Way That Reflects The Value They Offer Patients, Providers And The U.S. Healthcare System As A Whole.” (“Pledge On Drug Pricing & Innovation,”Mallinckrodt, Accessed 1/16/19)

  • “We Will Not Engage In Predatory Pricing, And If We Do Change The Price Of An Innovative Product, We Will Work With Payers And Other Stakeholders To Ensure That Every Patient … Does Not Go Without Treatment Because Of An Inability To Pay.” “If we do increase the list price on any of our innovative drugs or therapies, the total change in a calendar year will not exceed single digit percentage points.” (“Pledge On Drug Pricing & Innovation,” Mallinckrodt, Accessed 1/16/19)  

Mallinckrodt’s Record: 

  • Mallinckrodt Continued A Strategy Of Raising The Cost Of Acthar, Which Since 2001 Has Increased From $40 To $39,000 – A 100-Thousand Percent – “Essentially From The Cost Of A Coffee Maker To The Price Of A New Car With Leather Seats.” “With a treatment regimen requiring at least three vials over the course of several weeks, this drug costs more than many people’s homes.” (Wayne Drash, “Anatomy Of A 97,000% Drug Price Hike: One Family’s Fight To Save Their Son,” CNN, 6/29/18)
  • In 2017, “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Charged Mallinckrodt With Violating Antitrust Law In Its Quest To ‘Maintain Extremely High Prices For Acthar’ By Buying Its Main Competitor, A Drug Called Synacthen.” “Mallinckrodt ultimately settled the matter for $100 million without admitting wrongdoing. Mallinckrodt told CNBC that, regarding the lawsuit, the company did not violate any laws.” (J.R. Reed, “Mallinckrodt Shares Rebound After ‘60 Minutes’ Report On Drug Prices,” CNBC, 5/7/18)

Stay tuned for another blog tomorrow comparing Big Pharma’s rhetoric with its track record.