Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds his news conference with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Capitol Hill Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, regarding the issuance of subpoenas for pharmaceutical CEOs to testify about prices of medicines.
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Its Managing Directors Merck and Johnson & Johnson have voluntarily agreed to testify in an upcoming Senate hearing on high drug prices in the US, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Friday, as lawmakers step up efforts to rein in health care costs for Americans.
A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. ET.
The committee had planned to vote to call J&J CEO Joaquin Duato and Merck CEO Robert Davis to testify after both executives declined earlier requests to appear at the hearing. These calls would be the first published by the committee since 1981.
In the meantime, Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner and another unnamed pharma CEO agreed to initial invitations to testify.
The committee will ask each executive to testify as to why their companies charge significantly higher prices for drugs in the US than in other countries. The push to lower drug prices is one of the rare issues that has united both major political parties in recent years — though they have often advocated different approaches to doing it.
Sanders, who chairs the Senate health panel, noted that all three companies make some of the most expensive drugs sold in the U.S., including Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia, J&J’s blood cancer treatment Imbruvica and the blood thinner of Bristol Myers Squibb Eliquis.
All three of those treatments will be subject to the first round of Medicare drug price negotiations, a key policy under President Joe Biden’s inflation-reduction law that aims to make costly drugs more affordable for seniors. J&J, Merck and Bristol Myers Squib are suing to stop the talks, which would set new prices that would take effect in 2026.
“I very much hope that the CEOs of these big pharmaceutical companies will take a serious look at these incredible price discrepancies and work with us to substantially lower the prices they charge the American people for these and other prescription drugs,” Sanders said in a statement. Friday.
In a statement, a Merck spokesman said “we believe this will be a productive hearing aimed at enhancing the committee’s understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and finding common-sense solutions to the challenges facing patients.”
The company had offered its U.S. president as a witness, arguing the official was better equipped to answer questions about drug pricing, according to the spokesman. But the committee refused.
A J&J spokesman said the company looks forward to “building understanding of our longstanding efforts to improve affordability and access to medicines.”
Last year, the Senate Health Committee heard similar testimony from the CEOs of Modern, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi the high prices of medicines.