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CEOs of J&J, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb to testify at Senate hearing on drug prices

by SuperiorInvest

The CEOs of three major pharmaceutical companies will appear before the Senate health committee on Thursday to defend how much they charge for drugs in the United States, further drawing them into a confrontation with lawmakers and the Biden administration over the cost of drugs. medicines. some of the most commonly used prescription medications.

The three executives who will testify — Johnson & Johnson’s Joaquín Duato, Merck’s Robert M. Davis and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Christopher Boerner — are expected to clash with the health committee’s chairman, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who has fact of control Drug prices are a distinctive cause of his last years of career in Congress.

Sanders plans to focus the hearing on why drug prices are higher in the United States than in other wealthy countries. His staff has selected several widely used medications, including Eliquis, a blood thinner made by Bristol Myers Squibb, and Januvia, a diabetes drug from Merck, which can be purchased for much less in Canada and Europe than in the United States.

The hearing comes as a new federal program gets underway that authorizes Medicare to negotiate prices for some expensive drugs. Last week, federal health officials made their initial offers to the makers of the first 10 drugs selected for negotiations, a list that includes Eliquis and Januvia.

Five of the 10 drugs chosen for price negotiations are made by companies whose executives will testify Thursday. Drug makers, including the three companies that will be represented at the hearing, have filed a series of lawsuits arguing that the trading program is unconstitutional.

Sanders has accused pharmaceutical executives of profiting improperly from popular drugs at the expense of Americans struggling to pay for prescriptions. He has suggested that companies use drugs to enrich their top executives and shareholders.

Two of the pharmaceutical executives, Johnson & Johnson’s Duato and Merck’s Davis, agreed to testify after being threatened with subpoenas. Sanders had planned to hold a committee vote last week on whether to issue them, but the executives agreed to appear at the hearing before that vote was taken. The two companies suggested last month that Sanders was seeking to retaliate for lawsuits they had filed challenging Medicare’s price negotiation program.

Brand-name drug prices in the United States in 2022 were at least three times higher than those in 33 other wealthy countries, according to a recent report funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, even taking into account discounts that can reduce how much American health plans and employers pay.

Comparing drug prices in the United States with those in other countries can be difficult because the health care systems are so different. In the United States, drug price negotiations are fragmented among tens of thousands of health plans and employers, while European countries rely on a centralized negotiator. And while many prescription medications can be purchased for much less at European pharmacies, European countries do not necessarily offer extensive insurance coverage for those medications to their citizens.

Sarah Ryan, a spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pharmaceutical industry’s main lobbying group, said in a statement that new drugs arrived faster in the United States than in any other country. She blamed middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers for high out-of-pocket costs for Americans.

The three executives who will testify Thursday are the last to appear before Sanders since he became chairman of the health committee early last year. In March, Moderna’s CEO testified about the pricing of his company’s Covid-19 vaccine, and the CEOs of three major insulin makers (Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi) appeared before the committee at a hearing in May. .

Michelle Mello, a health policy expert at Stanford Law School, said lawmakers could use the hearing to build momentum around new legislative action on drug pricing, such as expanding the Medicare price negotiation program. to cover more medications.

“We could do a lot more with this tool,” he said.

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