Drug firm CEOs grilled about excessive U.S. drug costs : Photographs


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Well being, Training, Labor, and Pensions Committee, pressed executives from Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and Johnson & Johnson concerning the costs they cost for medicine within the U.S.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Pictures


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Kevin Dietsch/Getty Pictures


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Well being, Training, Labor, and Pensions Committee, pressed executives from Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and Johnson & Johnson concerning the costs they cost for medicine within the U.S.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Pictures

Sparks flew on Capitol Hill Thursday because the CEOs of three drug corporations confronted questions from the Senate Committee on Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions about why drug costs are a lot increased in america than they’re in the remainder of the world.

The executives from Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson and Merck spent nearly three hours in entrance of the committee going backwards and forwards about pricing practices and the way the businesses spend their cash.

“We’re all conscious of the numerous necessary lifesaving medicine that your corporations have produced,” stated a noticeably subdued Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Unbiased and the committee chairman. “That’s terribly necessary. However as all of you recognize, these medicine do nothing for anyone who can not afford it.”

Merck’s most cancers drug Keytruda prices $100,000 extra within the U.S. than it does in France, in response to a committee evaluation. Bristol Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Eliquis prices nearly 10 instances extra within the U.S. than in Germany. Johnson & Johnson’s arthritis drug Stelara prices 5 instances extra within the U.S. than it does in Japan.

Sufferers flip to GoFundMe

The executives made acquainted arguments that the U.S. pays extra for medicine but in addition will get new medicine quicker. The drugmakers additionally stated that middlemen referred to as pharmaceutical profit managers, or PBMs, take an enormous share of the checklist costs for themselves.

“Their negotiating power has elevated dramatically,” Merck CEO Robert Davis stated. “In contracting with them, Merck continues to expertise growing strain to offer even bigger reductions. And the hole between checklist and web worth continues to develop, and sufferers usually are not benefiting from the steep reductions we offer.”

Nonetheless, the legislators had been ready and sometimes shot again, for example, that whereas medicine take longer to get in the marketplace in Japan and Canada, for example, that hasn’t damage these nations’ life expectations. In actual fact, folks in Japan and Canada reside longer, on common, than they do in america.

Sanders requested Merck’s Davis if he had ever searched GoFundMe to see if anybody was making an attempt to boost cash to pay for Keytruda. He stated he hadn’t. Sanders stated his workers had.

“We have now discovered over 500 tales of individuals making an attempt to boost funds to pay for his or her most cancers therapies,” he stated. “And a kind of tales is a lady named Rebecca, the varsity lunch woman from Nebraska with two children who died of most cancers after establishing a GoFundMe web page as a result of she couldn’t afford to pay for Keytruda. Rebecca had raised $4,000 on her GoFundMe web page, however stated the price of Keytruda in a most cancers therapy was $25,000 for an infusion each three weeks.”

Drama behind the scenes

The CEOs of Merck and Johnson & Johnson initially declined to testify. Sanders stated they instructed his workers they did not have the experience to speak about drug pricing.

“Merck went as far as to inform our workers that their CEO is a tax legal professional who just isn’t an knowledgeable on prescription drug costs,” Sanders instructed reporters on Jan. 25, calling the explanations corporations provided for declining to testify “laughable to absurd.”

The committee was about to vote on subpoenaing the CEOs after they agreed to testify voluntarily.

The commerce group PhRMA, which stands for Pharmaceutical Analysis and Producers of America, emailed a preemptive assertion Wednesday that stated evaluating drug costs within the U.S. to these overseas would not inform the entire story. The commerce group stated that new medicines launch earlier within the U.S. than in the remainder of the world, giving Individuals quicker entry. It additionally pointed the finger at different excessive well being care spending and PBMs.

“Permitting overseas governments to affect U.S. costs will not repair America’s well being care system,” PhRMA wrote.

Senate report paperwork drugmakers’ monetary decisions

Early this week, the HELP Committee launched a report that discovered Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson and Merck spend extra on govt compensation, inventory buybacks and dividends than they do on analysis and improvement.

“In different phrases, these corporations are spending extra to counterpoint their very own stockholders and CEOs than they’re to find new cures and new therapies,” Sanders reiterated in his opening assertion on the listening to. “Now, the common American who hears all that is asking a quite simple query. How does all of this occur? “

The report confirmed that these corporations earn more money promoting their well-liked medicine within the U.S. than promoting them in the remainder of the world mixed. The report additionally discovered that whereas some drug costs climb within the U.S., they go down or keep the identical elsewhere.

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