Since Labor Day, Mr. Menendez’s campaign, perhaps in a sign of vulnerability, has aggressively ramped up its advertising campaign, with a majority of the political attacks accusing Mr. Hugin of raising drug prices to maximize profits.
In 2017, after Mr. Hugin had stepped down as chief executive and become executive chairman, the company suffered two major setbacks in its development pipeline: A drug it had hoped would be a breakthrough in treating Crohn’s disease failed to outperform a control group and Otezla, a psoriasis drug, badly missed sales expectations.
On the same day that Celgene announced it was scrapping the Crohn’s disease drug, it increased the price of Revlimid from $17,014 a bottle to $18,546, according to a report by Yatin Suneja, an analyst who follows the industry. It was the third price increase of Revlimid in 2017, representing a nearly 20 percent price increase for the drug from the previous year.
In financial filings, Celgene said these price hikes were a main reason the drug’s net sales increased in 2017 by about $1.2 billion over the previous year.
Ronny Gal, a securities analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company who follows the pharmaceutical industry, said drug companies have generally been “tone deaf” when it comes to raising the price of their monopoly products. “Celgene clearly has been there, but has not been any worse than the main players,” he said.
The tactics can carry a human cost. Last year, Elaine Kodish, a 76-year-old retiree from Los Angeles, briefly stopped taking Revlimid after her Medicare drug plan required she pay more than $450 a month for the drug that keeps her multiple myeloma in check. Ms. Kodish said she bought stock in Celgene when she started taking Revlimid in 2016, as a way of supporting a company she believed was keeping her alive.
But after a series of price increases have exposed her to ballooning out-of-pocket costs — she has since returned to taking Revlimid, which now costs her about $785 per month — she said she recently sold her stake. “I’m grateful to the drug companies, don’t get me wrong,” Ms. Kodish said. “However, they can’t be compensated on the backs of people who are dying.”