Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.)—minus her "Whiteboard of Justice"—speaks at the U.S. Capitol on December 19, 2019. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.)—minus her "Whiteboard of Justice"—speaks at the U.S. Capitol on December 19, 2019. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images) 

'You Lie': Katie Porter Wields 'Whiteboard of Justice' While Grilling Pharma CEO on Price Hikes

"You're spending all this money to make sure you make money rather than spending money to... help patients," the California congresswoman told AbbVie's Richard Gonzalez.

Brett Wilkins

U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday took the CEO of the maker of the world's bestselling drug to task for high product prices, with Rep. Katie Porter using her famed "Whiteboard of Justice" to demonstrate what she called "the Big Pharma fairy tale" that pharmaceutical research and development costs justify perpetual price hikes.

"The Big Pharma fairy tale 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."
—Rep. Katie Porter

Members of the House Oversight Committee grilled AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez—whose total compensation topped $24 million last year (pdf)—about the reasons for increasing the price of its top-selling drug Humira to $77,000 for a year's supply.

Humira (adalimumab) is an immunosuppressant used to treat a wide range of inflammatory conditions including arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis. Last year, Humira sales neared $20 billion, making it by far the world's bestselling pharmaceutical drug. 

In January, Fortune reported AbbVie would raise the price of Humira by 7.4%. Why the increase? Drugmakers often claim higher prices are needed to fund research and development. AbbVie spent a total of $2.45 billion on R&D from 2013 to 2018.

Porter (D-Calif.) pointed out that the company spends nearly double that—$4.7 billion—annually on advertising. 

When Porter asked Gonzalez how much the company compensates its executives, the CEO said, "About $60 million a year."

"Try $334 [million] on for size," Porter shot back.

Noting that AbbVie spent around $50 billion on cumulative stock buybacks and dividends from 2013 to 2018, Porter then told Gonzalez: "You're spending all this money to make sure you make money rather than spending money to invest in [and] develop drugs and help patients with affordable, lifesaving drugs."

"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," Porter asserted.

"The Big Pharma fairy tale is one of groundbreaking R&D that justifies astronomical prices," she said. "But the pharma reality is that you spend most of your company's money making money for yourself and your shareholders."

"The fact [is] that you're not honest about that with patients and policymakers—that you're feeding us lies that we must pay astronomical prices to get 'innovative' treatments," added Porter. "The American people, the patients, deserve so much better."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

ACLU Demands 'Truly Systemic Overhaul' of US Civilian Harm Policies

"While a serious Defense Department focus on civilian harm is long overdue and welcome, it's unclear that this directive will be enough," says director of the legal group's National Security Project.

Jessica Corbett ·


'This Is Not Over': Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Youth Climate Case

"With the state continuing to undermine their health, safety, and futures," said the plaintiffs' lead counsel, "we will evaluate our next steps and will continue to fight for climate justice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Analysis Finds 'Staggering' Rise in Voter Suppression After GOP Restrictions in Georgia

"This is why we are fighting this new law in court," said one voting rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Mail-In Voting Law

The ruling was stayed pending an appeal to the state's Supreme Court and as one voting advocate put it: "The fight's not over yet, folks."

Julia Conley ·


Big Win for Open Internet as Court Upholds California Net Neutrality Law

One legal advocate called the Ninth Circuit's opinion "a great decision and a major victory for internet users in California and nationwide."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo