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Pharma execs testify in front of Senate of rising drug prices

Published on 27/02/19 at 10:59am

Senior Executives from seven major pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson appeared before the US Senate Finance Committee (SFC) on Tuesday to testify on the high prices of drugs in the United States.

The hearing comes as both parties place focus on the rising price of drugs. Committee chairman Chuck Grassley was open in stating that “there is no question that researchers and doctors have developed treatments and cures for diseases where there were once none, and such innovations take time and money.”

However the Senator suggested that “there is a balance between incentivising innovation and keeping prices affordable for consumers and taxpayers.”

Before the hearing Grassley tweeted “I hope the drug co CEOs testifying tmrw don't try to blame everyone but themselves/take no responsibility for their role in fixing the problem We already understand there are other factors to consider Tmrw is abt the part drug cos can do to lower costs for patients+taxpayers.”

Nevertheless the pharma executives did seek to shift the blame as they continued to accuse pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and insurers of being responsible for high drug prices.

Meanwhile the execs presented various proposals aimed at addressing the problem, including offering incentives to increase the use of generics and greater financial aid for patients.

Despite the scrutiny, little concrete came out of the hearing. As noted by Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the Senate Finance Committee’s top Democrat: “I’ve heard a lot of happy talk this morning. But what people are taking away from this hearing … well, no firm commitments have been made to lower list prices.”

For the most part the pharma executives were able to avoid being pinned. Notably, when asked whether they had blocked generic drugmaker’s access to drug samples all seven pharma chiefs said that they hadn’t. However Pfizer and AstraZeneca have both been accused of doing so by the FDA.

Louis Goss

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