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How Can A CEO Feel Good About Being Vile?

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How Can A CEO Feel Good About Being Vile?


Corporate price gouging is never nice. But gouging people on the price of medicines they rely on to stay alive is worse than not nice — it’s predaceously evil.

And if you think corporate morality can’t go lower than that, how about gouging people on the price of a life-saving medicine in order to jack up the personal pay of a drug maker’s CEO? That’s the bottom level of grotesque immorality where Heather Bresch dwells. She is chief executive of Mylan, a pharmaceutical profiteer that markets the EpiPen medical device, which literally is a lifesaver for people who suffer deadly anaphylaxis allergy attacks.

These allergy attacks kill nearly 200 people a year in the U.S. alone. Within seconds, something as common as peanuts or a bee sting can cause sever rash, swelling of the airways, drops in blood pressure, shock, and if not treated right away, death. So, naturally, we would want to increase access to the life-saving medicine that prevents these attacks, right?

Increasing that access is hard to do at today’s price. For years, a two-shot packet of EpiPens cost under $100, but Mylan bought the rights to the injectable drug in 2007, gained monopoly control of the market, and in 2012 suddenly began sticking dependent patients again and again with drastic price hikes. Now, the two-pack averages more than $600, with some paying above $900!

Drug makers routinely claim they must charge high prices to recoup their cost of developing their products — but Mylan didn’t develop the EpiPen, taxpayers did. The original research was initiated by the Pentagon back in 1973. Today, the device and the medicine in it cost Mylan only a few dollars to produce, and the product itself is essentially unchanged from when Mylan bought it. So the company’s only real contribution to the EpiPen has been to raise its price by more than 600 percent — a shameful act of sheer profiteering that rips off hundreds of thousands of users and endangers the lives of those families who simply can’t afford it.

Mylan’s CEO, the one responsible for this price gouge, regards herself as a self-made corporate success story — a woman who came out of hard-scrabble West Virginia and scrambled to the top of the food chain at Mylan. “There is a work ethic and grit about [West Virginia] that allows me to help make a difference,” Bresch told the New York Times.

Well, yes, grit, hard work — and having the advantage of being the daughter of the state’s former governor and current US Senator, Joe Manchin III. Take the MBA degree she got from West Virginia University, an academic credential bestowed on her 10 years after she left the school, having completed only about half of the coursework required to get a degree. The state university later conceded that Bresch was awarded this business degree… well, because her father was governor at the time, overseeing the school’s budget. It’s this sort of ethical “grit” that Mylan’s chief exec has employed to pick the pockets of thousands of vulnerable customers who rely on EpiPen.

Heather’s greed has sparked a furious public backlash, leading to congressional investigations. But, again, her “grit” might pay off, for she has bought off several top allergy-patient advocacy groups who are not backing the people. Why? Because she’s been dispensing millions of dollars to them in PR grants, making them “allies” in her blatant price-gouging scheme.

One thing that has risen higher than EpiPen’s price: CEO Heather Bresch’s paycheck. It’s up by 671 percent since 2007, and last year alone she pocketed $18.9 million! But I wonder — is that enough to make her feel good about being so vile? Of Course, Congress and the courts will do nothing to deter her and the other Big Pharma gougers — but surely the lowest level of Dante’s Inferno has rooms reserved for all of them.

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower is a nationally syndicated columnist and one of America's most prominent progressive voices. His column carried by more than 75 publications across the country. Prior to becoming a writer, Hightower served as Texas Agricultural Commission from 1982 to 1991.

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  1. Sand_Cat September 1, 2016

    I can hear the GOP now: a private company has the right to pay their CEO whatever they want. But of course, what about government workers, or even the workers who actually do the work at the companies with obscenely-high CEO pay? How dare they even ask for a living wage, or any share at all of the immense profits flowing into the company!

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 1, 2016

      A strange and bitter irony America has come to represent.

      1. Independent1 September 2, 2016

        As we know “The love of money is the root of all evil’, and “Money and Greed go hand in hand”. And America being the land of ‘opportunity’; makes it easier for Money and Greed to be bed fellows.

    2. Eleanore Whitaker September 2, 2016

      They also have a right to do it all on THEIR OWN without tax dollars. These companies every year are handed your tax dollars as was EpiPen to do the R&D on drugs and medical devices. Why? Isn’t this the job of the management of these billionaire CEOs? When they pay themselves these obscene salaries, they sit back laughing up their sleeves because nearly ALL of their business is subsidized by your tax dollars.

      This wouldn’t be a problem if so many of these businesses were not now monopolies who do more dealing in buying and selling the most profitable small business than they do in R&D of these drugs and medical devices.

      And, in case you missed it, they get a double windfall because if you check where you drugs are manufactured you see it is Mexico, China or some other cheap labor countries. Read the labels of your prescription drugs and you’ll see what I mean.

      1. dpaano September 2, 2016

        Eleanore….not ALL medical device companies are like that. I work for a multinational medical device company privately owned by a German family. They take NO money from the U.S. government to manufacture our products, which we manufacture all around the world in various countries beside the U.S. The company pays its taxes in ALL countries that they operate in AND they provide great benefits for their employees…..we’re probably one of the very few companies that still has an employer-paid pension as well as a lucrative 401(k) program wherein our company matches all personal contributions. So, please don’t blame ALL pharmaceutical and medical device companies of being much like Mylan. There ARE a few out there that have scruples, and I’m glad I work for one! Unfortunately, they are few and far between!

      2. Austinniceguy September 3, 2016

        And the last 7+ years they have lobbied the elephant eared porch monkey’s administration to pass laws that let them get away with it.

    3. FireBaron September 2, 2016

      Consider this, Sand. The drug used was developed with funding from the US Government. Mylan never spent a penny of their own money in its development and testing.

      1. dpaano September 2, 2016

        They should be giving it away instead of jacking up the prices!!! After all, it basically belongs to the taxpayers who paid for it!!!

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 1, 2016

    This is another anomaly unique to America, along with its inordinate obsession with Race, a tragic flirtation with eugenics, and its peculiar and slavish devotion to unfettered capitalism and the attendant inordinate materialism that comes along an unwelcome bonus.

    Adam Smith’s legacy has been stamped on the hearts and brow of many Americans who worship the notion of free enterprise as though it were a special god, and who are whole-heartedly devoted to the motto of make as much money as possible even if it puts a hardship on others.

    But the pharmaceutical company, and other businesses in America’s rabid devotion to free-enterprise(thanks, Ronald et al) has led it to exceed the bounds of decency and propriety, to put lives in the balance and deny a basic right that all citizens deserve—all for property and the holy sanctity of “MO MONEY, MO MONEY, MO MONEY”.
    Various knuckleheads would call this comment just another call for socialism, and would think it obscene to show a gesture of empathy, and begrudge a helping hand to those most in need. That no longer is a noble concept to too many Americans.

    This serves as another painful reminder of the downfall of Christianity and Judaism as institutions which no longer are capable of properly informing the hearts and minds of the likes pharmaceutical companies, or even soften the hearts of those who need assistance the most yet like parrots are the first to complain about the unmitigated gall to lend assistance to those in need. What a depressing state of affairs have befallen the nation, while millions scream “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” when it never achieved that status in the truest sense to begin with.

  3. Insinnergy September 1, 2016

    And you guys were worried about the Italian Mafia and the Triads…

    Those guys are minnows compared to your legally sanctioned Medical/Pharma/Insurance protection racket.

    Its time to regulate and profit-fix the medical and insurance industries and return the trillions they are gouging from every single tax payer and reduce their monopoly protection to 2 years for any new drug or device. (Does anyone think granting a patent for 10 years pushes any sort of innovation? Why grant a patent at all?)

    1. King of America September 2, 2016

      There are lots of compelling reasons to grant patents; patents aren’t the issue here, though. Regulation of price changes that massively exceed any increase in production costs/inflation are what is needed here, and not just in the medical sector.

      The problem with what you wrote is that it is the same argument advanced by anti-vaxxers to back up their ridiculous conspiracy theories, and we should be very careful not to give those dangerous cretins even the appearance of credibility.

  4. Eleanore Whitaker September 2, 2016

    Remember back in the earliest days of HMOs what they spread around? “We will save money.” Yes. They did. Save THEIR money. You’d be hard put to find a single HMO CEO, Big Pharma or Big Insurance CEO who is not at least a multi-millionaire if not a billionaire. This does NOT happen in any other country of the world.

    The EU just this week did something ALL Americans now must force US Corporations to do: Pay their FAIR Share of taxes. The EU stated flatly that it was demanding Apple pay $15 billion to Ireland in unpaid taxes.

    Figure it out for yourselves. Not only do you hand your employers back what they pay you so they can take advantage of tax subsidies and tax cuts that come from your taxes, but then, they also jack the prices of their goods and services for a second round of rip offs of taxpayers as consumers.

    If the EU recognizes that Big Businesses must pay their fair share, why are the Republicans vitually forcing us to pay to keep Big businesses in existence?

    No where in the US Constitution does it say that we must USE our tax dollars to keep businesses in existence. Europe doesn’t do it. Why should we?

    1. dpaano September 2, 2016

      Because that’s what the Republicans do……they feed the rich and starve the poor….and they do it with a smile!!!

      1. Eleanore Whitaker September 3, 2016

        What I’ve noticed in the last 17 years is the Republican desperation to use their subtle brainwashing to get us to accept that insanity is normal. When you see nutballs of the right putting a effigy of Hillary on a pole with blood poured over it, that kind of violent insanity is what the Republicans want us to believe is the “new normal.”

        When Bachmannistan publicly states that “God wants Trump to be President,” it is not possible not to see that the real underlying attempt by the Republicans is to make insanity appear normal.

        It is not possible to read right wing posts and not see that insanity. It isn’t possible to listen to a word Trump, McConnell, Ryan, Cornyn, Walker, LePaige, Scott and Paul say without noticing their words are unhinged.

        1. Austinniceguy September 3, 2016

          You mean like the talking snatch saying; “we have to pass it so we can see what’s it it” about oblowjobcare? Or ALL the lies that the filthy gash, Shitlery has told over the many years she’s been spreading her corruption? Then there was the POS Bernie who actually used Venezuela as an example of good government, yeah, I see how you idiots make your points.

      2. plc97477 September 4, 2016

        And with the help of some of the poorest in this country.

  5. CrankyToo September 2, 2016

    Great job, Joe Manchin! Your bouncing baby girl’s a real mensch.

    1. dtgraham September 3, 2016

      You can bet that Joe thinks she’s done nothing wrong. Everyone agrees with the calls to vote Democrat down ballot at every opportunity, but I guess that may not always result in a better Congress and Senate 100% of the time. There are a number of Manchin/Lieberman Democrats out there.

      1. CrankyToo September 3, 2016

        You’re absolutely right. Still, I’ll take my chances with a Democrat-controlled Congress. AND, I’m thoroughly convinced that the Dems are smart enough to understand that it was their ineptitude during the first two years of the Obama presidency that cost them the Congress, and which has culminated in the pain we’ve had to endure these past six years. I think the Dems will do a much better job when they finally regain control of Congress. I may be wrong.

        1. dtgraham September 4, 2016

          No, you’re not wrong. The deal is that the Dems just have to accept that some Democrats coming out of the red states, if they can get them elected, will only be a smidgen better than a Republican in a number of cases.

          They just have to accept that a smidgen better is still worth it, and go with it. All politics is local.

          I agree with you on those first two years. It was just baseless, unwarranted optimism in the system by Obama. It was gratuitous, inexcusable faith in the opposition that led to what was to come. That is, if you’re cutting Obama some slack on his ideology and giving the blame to naivete and not to politics.

          1. CrankyToo September 4, 2016

            Well put.

  6. Eleanore Whitaker September 2, 2016

    The next time some winger tells you that poverty and mindless austerity is YOUR fault, remind them that GREED is what causes poverty and always has.

    1. Austinniceguy September 3, 2016

      Just ask Shitlery and the rapist, they know ALL ABOUT GREED!!!


  7. The lucky one September 2, 2016

    They don’t feel good about being vile. They feel good about being rich. that is all that matters to them.

  8. Jon September 2, 2016

    Heather Bresch’s grit and work ethic could never let her put humanity ahead of profits and salary increases. And some people think she is nothing more than a cynical, selfish, greedy, cold-hearted CEO.

    1. dpaano September 2, 2016

      Personally, I don’t THINK she’s cynical, selfish, greedy, and cold-hearted, I KNOW it!!! I’d spit on her if she ever came into my view! She’s heartless!

  9. Buford2k11 September 2, 2016

    Yesterday, as a coach, I was responsible for an Epi-pen for one of my players…The School purchased these items from our tax money…This kid couldn’t play without it…It never occurs to these CEO’s, and Republican law makers that we little folks cannot afford their corruption…And there are folks in the crowd who would support Trump and the GOP in their corporate corruption…

    1. dpaano September 2, 2016

      I know, stupid, huh?

  10. Steve Kelly September 2, 2016

    Unacceptably corrupt!

  11. dpaano September 2, 2016

    I find it extremely hard to believe that someone can do this to people, especially children. Trust me, the first person that dies because they can’t afford to purchase an Epipen to save their lives is going to sue her for all she’s worth! I just hope they win and that it’s worth it! What she is doing is the vilest thing I’ve ever in my long life seen! This is greed personified! This needs to be taken care of….hopefully, our next Congress will be taken over by Democrats and things will get done!

  12. johninPCFL September 2, 2016

    Perhaps when The Donald has adopted his “man of the people” persona for an evening, he may deftly suggest that one of his minions exercise a “second amendment solution” accordingly to prevent the deaths of hundreds of people by this murderous hag.


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