The chief executives of three main pharmaceutical firms are set to look in entrance of the Senate well being committee on Thursday to defend how a lot they cost for medicine in the US, drawing them additional right into a confrontation with lawmakers and the Biden administration over the price of a few of the most generally used prescription medicines.
The three executives scheduled to testify — Joaquin Duato of Johnson & Johnson, Robert M. Davis of Merck and Christopher Boerner of Bristol Myers Squibb — are anticipated to conflict with the well being committee’s chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an unbiased who has made reining in drug costs a signature trigger of his late-career years in Congress.
Mr. Sanders plans to focus the listening to on why drug costs are greater in the US than in different rich international locations. His employees has singled out a number of broadly used medicine, together with Eliquis, a blood thinner made by Bristol Myers Squibb, and Januvia, a diabetes drug from Merck, that may be purchased for a lot much less in Canada and Europe than in the US.
The listening to comes as a brand new federal program authorizing Medicare to barter the costs of some pricey medicines is getting underway. Federal well being officers final week made their preliminary gives to the makers of the primary 10 medicine chosen for negotiations, a listing that features Eliquis and Januvia.
5 of the ten medicine picked for worth talks are made by the businesses whose executives shall be testifying on Thursday. Drug makers, together with all three firms that shall be represented on the listening to, have filed a flurry of lawsuits arguing that the negotiation program is unconstitutional.
Mr. Sanders has accused pharmaceutical executives of unduly making the most of common medicines on the expense of Individuals struggling to pay for prescriptions. He has urged that the businesses use the medicine to complement their prime executives and stockholders.
Two of the pharmaceutical executives, Mr. Duato of Johnson & Johnson and Mr. Davis of Merck, agreed to testify after being threatened with subpoenas. Mr. Sanders had deliberate to carry a committee vote final week on whether or not to subject them, however the executives agreed to look on the listening to earlier than such a vote was taken. The 2 firms urged final month that Mr. Sanders was searching for to retaliate for the lawsuits that they had filed difficult the Medicare worth negotiation program.
Costs for brand-name medicine in the US in 2022 have been not less than thrice as excessive as these in 33 different rich international locations, a current report funded by the Division of Well being and Human Companies discovered, even when taking into consideration reductions that may scale back how a lot American well being plans and employers pay.
Evaluating drug costs in the US with these in different international locations will be tough as a result of the well being care techniques are so totally different. In the US, negotiations over drug costs are fragmented throughout tens of 1000’s of well being plans and employers, whereas European international locations depend on a centralized negotiator. And whereas many prescribed drugs will be purchased for a lot much less at European pharmacies, European international locations don’t essentially supply broad insurance coverage protection for these medicine for his or her residents.
Sarah Ryan, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Analysis and Producers of America, or PhRMA, the drug business’s fundamental lobbying group, stated in a press release that new medicines arrived sooner in the US than in every other nation. She blamed middlemen referred to as pharmacy profit managers for prime out-of-pocket prices for Individuals.
The three executives set to testify on Thursday are the newest to look earlier than Mr. Sanders since he grew to become the well being committee’s chairman early final 12 months. In March, Moderna’s chief government testified in regards to the worth of his firm’s Covid-19 vaccine, and the chief executives of three main insulin producers — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — appeared in entrance of the committee at a listening to in Could.
Michelle Mello, a well being coverage professional at Stanford Regulation Faculty, stated that lawmakers might use the listening to to construct momentum round additional legislative motion on drug pricing, resembling increasing the Medicare worth negotiation program to embody extra medicine.
“We may very well be doing a lot extra with this software,” she stated.