Source: New Jersey Globe
Jackie Trapp was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal but treatable blood cancer in 2015. After chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she was put on Revlimid, a live-saving cancer drug that costs $21,197 a month. Even with good health insurance, Revlimid costs her nearly $20,000 a year in out of pocket expenses.
“We’ve blown through the bank accounts. They’re pretty much empty. We had to refinance our house,” Trapp said about the cost of the drug, which is manufactured by New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Celgene.
The profits off Revlimid made Bob Hugin, the former Celgene chairman and CEO, more than $140 million, according to a report issued today by Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, a Super PAC which is spending a reported $1.5 million on a TV ad that opposes Hugin’s campaign challenging two-term Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. Menendez’s campaign has being making Hugin’s record at Celgene one of their top issues.
The report claims that the price of a single Revlimid capsule increased from $247.28 to $662.36 when he retired to run for office earlier this year. During his time as CEO, the cost of Revlimid doubled.
The report also alleges that Hugin exploited loopholes in a federal law to block a “cheaper generic version” of Revlimid from coming to market, and he was criticized by the Food and Drug Administration of “the number one offender denying samples of drugs for generic testing and development.
“Generic drugmakers have accused Celgene of refusing to sell samples for generic analysis, a tactic employed by brand-name drugmakers to delay competition and keep prices high,” the report said. “By one estimate, the type of unethical games played by Hugin will cost Americans $45 billion through 2026 – just for one drug, Revlimid.”
“Unscrupulous price hikes and games to extend the monopoly have created a horrific choice for cancer patients: the drug or death,” the report stated.
“Bob Hugin and Celgene discovered medicines that have revolutionized the fight against deadly blood cancers and have saved and extended lives for hundreds of thousands of patients,” protests Megan Piwowar, Hugin’s communications director. “Under Bob, Celgene invested 40% over their revenues in research and development and helped provide prescription assistance to over 300,000 patients who needed help to afford their medicines.”
Piwowar adds that Menendez “has zero credibility on this issue of drug pricing. Menendez took $1 million in campaign contributions from big pharma and voted to prevent the sale of less expensive drugs to patients,” Piwowar said.
David Mitchell, a cancer patient who took Revlimid, is now the president of Patients for Affordable Drug Action. He blames Hugin for the cost of the drug: “No matter how Bob Hugin tries to spin it, patients suffered incredible pain because of his unethical behavior and his unscrupulous price hikes.”