Key Senate committee pressures 7 big pharmas to testify
- Top lawmakers at the U.S. Senate Finance Committee called on seven big pharmas to testify at the committee's next hearing on prescription drug costs, currently set for Feb. 26.
- AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer and Sanofi were all invited to discuss the much debated topic. Several drugmakers had declined a prior invite to attend an earlier hearing held by the committee.
- This time, however, two companies have agreed to have their CEO testify, the Finance Committee said in an email. In a statement to BioPharma Dive, Merck & Co. said its CEO Ken Frazier would attend to "discuss solutions" with the committee.
Pharma companies are facing heightened scrutiny of their pricing practices from both parties early in the new Congress.
Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Oversight Committee have unveiled agendas looking at drug pricing. At the same, the White House has continued to roll out regulatory plans aimed at shifting how drugs are priced and paid for.
By publicly naming invited companies, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., upped the pressure on industry to attend. Grassley and Wyden appear willing to take further steps to compel drugmaker testimony as well.
"Even if it means using our power to compel the drug company CEOs to show up, they will come before this committee," Wyden said during the first hearing on Jan. 29.
"Pharmaceutical companies receive billions of dollars a year from federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid," Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement. "This is an opportunity for companies that produce life-saving treatments to explain how they price these treatments and whether the status quo is acceptable."
BioPharma Dive asked all seven companies for comment.
"We share the committee's goal of reducing patient out-of-pocket costs and are committed to working with Senators Grassley and Wyden on innovative policy ideas," Merck said in an emailed statement. "Our CEO, Ken Frazier, will be there to discuss solutions with the committee later this month."
A Sanofi spokesperson stated the company is "determining if current scheduling allows" for its CEO Olivier Brandicourt to attend. Pfizer declined to comment.
The other four companies did not return a request for comment by time of publication.
On the other side of Congress, House Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has also launched an investigation into prescription drug pricing, sending letters to 12 pharmaceutical companies requesting information and documents related to pricing practices on 18 products that were costliest to Medicare Part D, costliest per beneficiary or had the largest price increases over a five-year period.
Cummings has also backed several bills along with liberal congressional members, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which would support Medicare Part D price negotiation, drug imports from major countries including Canada, and allow the federal government to offer non-exclusive licenses for particularly high-priced drugs.
Ned Pagliarulo contributed reporting.
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