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Ocasio-Cortez bathes in Republican tears: GOP congressman triggered by attack on Big Pharma

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After taking back the House in the November midterms, in large part because of health care, Democrats held their first hearing in January on the rising and often exorbitant cost of prescription drugs. This week, the House majority followed up with a package of legislation aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs and reversing the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Essentially, Democrats dared Republicans to vote against lower drug prices because of their longstanding opposition to Obamacare. The gambit worked, with the trio of bills passing on Thursday with the support of five Republicans. Furthermore, this move made clear that some in the GOP are quicker to cry tears in defense of corporate profits than for the Americans dependent on lifesaving medicine that is many times more expensive in the U.S. than other developed nations.

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At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing this week, Republicans howled in bitter protest after Democrats dared to question the massive profits claimed by leading pharmaceutical companies while millions can’t afford lifesaving medications.

Daniel O’Day, the chairman and CEO of Gilead, was grilled by Democratic lawmakers on Thursday. Although Gilead is the leading US manufacturer of HIV drugs, only about 18% of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. at risk for HIV infections are currently taking its prevention drug Truvada. Democrats contended that that means preventable infections are occurring every day because of Gilead’s business model.

Gilead charged $800 a month for Truvada when it was introduced in 2004. It now costs nearly $2000 a month and has earned Gilead about $36 billion since it was approved in 2004.

“How can Gilead do this?” Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., asked O’Day. “This treatment was developed as a result of investment made by the American taxpayers.” Cummings then answered his own question, saying that “the problem is that Gilead, the company that now sells the drug, charges astronomical prices.”

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) originally filed a patent application for Truvada in 2006, after it discovered the drug’s ability to prevent HIV infection in a federal primate lab in Atlanta.

“How can our system allow a company to take a drug treatment that was developed with taxpayer funds and abuse its monopoly to charge such astronomical prices?” Cummings pressed O’Day.

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Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also piled on O’Day. “You’re the CEO of Gilead. Is it true that Gilead made $3 billion in profits from Truvada in 2018?” she asked.

“The current list price is $2,000 a month in the United States, correct?” she continued. “Why is it $8 in Australia?”

“There’s no reason this should be $2,000 a month,” Ocasio-Cortez insisted. “People are dying because of it and there’s no enforceable reason for it.”

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O’Day argued that the astronomical price difference is due to government regulation, not corporate greed.

“Truvada still has patent protection in the United States and in the rest of the world it is generic,” he replied. “It will be generically available in the United States as of September 2020.”

“We the people developed this drug!” Ocasio-Cortez shot back.

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After another freshman Democrat, Rep. Katie Hill of California, questioned the CEO about the company’s revenue, which she quoted at $22 billion in 2018, and the compensation of its highest-ranking executives, including O’Day’s recent $30 million signing bonus, Republicans lost it.

“I just cannot understand why we are spending time sitting here listening to people lecturing companies about making money. I hope you make a lot of money,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in a two-minute outburst.

“But to sit here and attack the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicine that is saving lives around the world? I mean it is just offensive!”

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Roy, a freshman Republican who won election last November by just 3 percentage points, continued with his sour-faced, hand-waving tirade: “I hope you make a lot of money! … How much cash on hand does Apple have? $245 billion. How much has Apple done to go cure health?”

He was later joined in indignation by the committee’s ranking Republican member Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

“Rather than applaud Gilead for manufacturing this miracle drug, they wish to demonize the company for making a profit,” said Jordan, who complained in April in letters to the drug companies that he believed his committee’s investigation was a partisan attempt to influence stock prices. “I fear that my colleagues are using today’s hearing as a platform to strong-arm private companies making breakthrough discoveries, all because they are upset at how markets work. The reality is that while Gilead has made money on this drug there doesn’t seem to be genuine issues with access.”

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Medical experts, however, appear to disagree.

“I believe that the root cause of low access is the high price of the medication,” testified Dr. Robert Grant, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Dick Cheney raising money for Trump’s re-election — with White House staffers Ivanka and Jared: report

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney is raising money for President Donald Trump's re-election at a fundraiser in a ritzy western resort town.

"Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event," The Washington Post reported Saturday. "The luncheon fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., will feature White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, along with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as 'special guests,' according to the invitation, which was obtained by The Washington Post."

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‘Go back to Harlem!’: Florida woman has n-word laced meltdown after bumping black woman’s shopping cart

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On Saturday, the Atlanta Black Star reported an incident in Florida, in which a white woman screamed racial slurs at a black woman at a Publix supermarket in Miami after their shopping carts jostled each other.

After the woman allegedly banged into Nicki Johnson's cart, she refused to apologize, saying, "I didn't hit you with my cart, and f**k you,  you f**king n****r."

Johnson whipped out her cell phone camera, and began recording the incident, saying "You, why don't you call me a n****r again?"

"You thinking I'm sorry?" snapped the woman. "Let me tell you something, I don't have to call you anything. Get away from me, I will call security and there are surveillance videos. Get away from me!"

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‘I’m a nurse, what are you?’: Tennessee lawmaker humiliates anti-choice activists in brutal public grilling

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Anti-choice activists in Tennessee were unprepared for the grilling they got from a Democratic Party lawmaker when making the case for a bill that would outlaw abortion before many women knew they were pregnant.

One of the speakers in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill was Baptist Pastor Randy Davis, who was questioned by state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis).

"How many women executive pastors do you have in your convention?" Robinson asked Davis. "Or senior pastors."

"None," Davis replied.

"So is it the same ideology that restricts access to women being able to lead a congregation that leads you all to support women not being able to make a medical decision about their body?" Robinson asked.

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