Bob Menendez’s GOP Challenger Turned Around A Failing Drug Company, And That Might Be His Achilles Heel

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin has been closing in on Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez in the polls, all while campaigning on his work in the pharmaceutical industry turning around a cash-strapped drug company.

“Joining Celgene not only offered me a chance to spend more time at home with my wife Kathy and our three incredible children, but it also gave me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Hugin said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “When you meet someone battling a life-threatening disease who was told they have no hope, that’s when you truly understand the power of life-saving medicine and the impact it can have.”

Hugin narrowed Menendez’s 17-point lead to just six points from March to August, reported The Hill. Hugin has capitalized on Menendez’s brush with corruption charges in 2017. The candidate has also drawn voters’ attention to his time in the Marines and as an executive at Celgene, a company that became known for its cancer drug Revlimid during Hugin’s tenure.

Hugin left his Wall Street job at J.P. Morgan to become chief financial officer at Celgene in 1999. Back then, the drug company was “getting by on less than six weeks of cash” while selling only one no-name drug, reported The New York Times.

Now, Celgene is worth nearly $80 billion and touts its trademark drug, Revlimid, for reducing the mortality rate for patients with a common type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma.

Since Revlimid was approved in 2006, the company has invested $20 billion in research and development. Celgene ranked third in research and development intensity with a rate of nearly 40 percent according to the EU Industrial Research and Development Scoreboard in 2017. Celgene had been first in the international, multi-industry rankings in 2016.

Celgene has faced criticism for allegedly dragging its feet when sharing samples of its products with generic companies, reported The NYT.  In 2017, the company settled a lawsuit claiming that Celgene had violated the False Claims Act when promoting Revlimid and another drug, Thalomid.  After fighting for seven years, Celgene paid $280 million, which amounts to about two weeks’ worth of sales for the company, according to Policy & Medicine.

Although the drug industry is often looked down upon by voters, New Jersey is known as the headquarters for multiple main players in the pharmaceutical industry. Hugin has touted the jobs Celgene created in his state. (RELATED: Poll: Republican Party Enjoys Highest Favorability Rating In Seven Years)

Ads by Menendez supporters have hit Hugin for his Big Pharma ties, and the candidate will also have to overcome the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Jersey by nearly 900,000, according to The NYT.

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