Drug company executives to testify before U.S. Senate

Drug company executives to testify before U.S. Senate

Jennifer Taubert, executive vice president and worldwide chairman of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, testifies during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Drug Pricing in America on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 26, 2019.

"He said it was 'annoying to some extent, ' " Wyden said.

Sachs said insurers and retailers can negotiate drug prices.

"America has a problem with the high cost of prescription medicines", Grassley said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sparred with Richard Gonzalez, chairman and CEO of drugmaker AbbVie, over its efforts to protect the market for its drug adalimumab (Humira).

Frazier acknowledged that list prices are "actually working against the patient". In an opinion column in the Des Moines Register, he said that his constituents "deserve to know why a drug that has been on the market for almost a century - life-saving insulin - has risen in cost by 500 percent in recent years". One witness explained that in the past, companies' goal in setting prices was to have lower co-pays for patients; today, the goal is to pay the largest rebate, creating an incentive to increase list prices, to the detriment of patients. They advocated as potential fixes the rebate reforms that the Trump administration has touted, along with value-based pricing and greater access to biosimilars and generics.

"Research is at the core of who we are and what we do", Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO of Merck, said in his remarks and explained that in 2018 the company invested nearly US$10 billion in R&D towards preventing, treating and curing diseases.

"We can not allow anyone to hide behind the current complexities to shield the true cost of a drug", he said. "We recognize the need for change", said Giovanni Caforio, MD, chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb.

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However, like the participants in the BIO CEO panel, the executives assembled in Washington Tuesday opposed the idea under Medicare Part B to reference drug prices to the prices paid in other countries. HHS has proposed a rule to eliminate rebates in Medicare and Medicaid, the government health insurance programs.

The hearing marks the start of what is likely to be a prolonged bipartisan push to tackle soaring health costs that could extend far beyond drugmakers. Benjamin Cardin, D-Maryland, about why they couldn't charge prices comparable to other developed nations. Numerous techniques the industry has used to preserve its profits from blockbuster drugs came in for criticism, but company officials were able to place much of the blame on a patchwork of incentives that culminates in high out-of-pocket costs for patients. Grassley has previously pushed legislation that would do away with various moves branded drugmakers have used to thwart generic competition.

Outside experts said there were a few things that interested them about the hearing. Some drugmakers have blocked competition for their medications by preventing would-be competitors from obtaining samples of the drugs. While it is unclear if they had deliberately withheld samples, AstraZeneca and Pfizer are both companies whose chief executives testified and that appear on the list.

The executives pointed to their companies' records of developing lifesaving medications, saying profits generated in the lucrative USA market help them fund expensive research and development of future treatments.

The hearing comes against the backdrop of a recent probe into insulin pricing introduced by Grassley and his Democrat counterpart on the committee, Ron Wyden, as well as President Trump's "blueprint" on medicine pricing. They were questioned about R&D spending, patent extensions and their own compensation.

Seven drug company executives will testify about rising prescription drug prices before a powerful U.S. Senate Committee on Tuesday, marking a sharp escalation in lawmakers' promises to address high medicine costs. But pharma's opponents in the healthcare industry are hoping for additional legislation on drug price transparency.

New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, considered an ally of the industry, delivered what he called a friendly warning: "If you don't undertake meaningful action to reduce pharmaceutical costs, policymakers are going to do it for you". The endorsement from drugmaker Sanofi could be a boon for the bill (S 340), which has come close to being law several times but has been stymied by the drug industry's appeals to congressional leaders.

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