Merck, Johnson & Johnson CEOs agree to testify in Senate hearing on high drug prices

US Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, speaks throughout a rally by the People’s Action, protesting pharmaceutical firms’ lobbying in opposition to permitting Medicare to negotiate decrease prescription drug prices, outdoors Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) headquarters in Washington, DC, September 21, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The CEOs of Merck and Johnson & Johnson have voluntarily agreed to testify at an upcoming Senate hearing on high drug prices in the U.S., Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced Friday, as lawmakers ramp up efforts to rein in health-care costs for Americans. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. ET.  

The panel had deliberate to vote to subpoena J&J CEO Joaquin Duato and Merck CEO Robert Davis to testify after each executives declined earlier requests to seem on the hearing. Those subpoenas would have been the first issued by the committee since 1981. 

Meanwhile, Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner and one other unnamed pharmaceutical CEO agreed to preliminary invites to testify. 

The panel will ask every government to present testimony about why their firms cost considerably larger prices for medication in the U.S. than in different nations. The push to reduce drug prices is among the uncommon points that has united each main political events in current years — although they’ve typically backed completely different approaches to doing so.

Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health panel, famous that every one three firms manufacture a number of the costliest medication bought in the U.S., together with Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia, J&J’s blood most cancers remedy Imbruvica and Bristol Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Eliquis. 

All three of these therapies can be topic to the primary spherical of Medicare drug worth negotiations, a key coverage below President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act that goals to make pricey medicines extra reasonably priced for seniors. J&J, Merck and Bristol Myers Squib are all suing to halt the talks, which is able to set up new prices that can go into impact in 2026. 

“I hope very a lot that the CEOs of those main pharmaceutical firms will take a critical have a look at these unbelievable worth discrepancies and work with us to considerably cut back the prices they cost the American individuals for these and different pharmaceuticals,” Sanders stated in an announcement Friday. 

In an announcement, a Merck spokesperson stated “we belief that this can be a productive hearing geared toward enhancing the committee’s understanding of the pharmaceutical trade and discovering frequent sense options to the challenges dealing with sufferers.”

The firm had supplied its U.S. president as a witness, arguing that official was higher outfitted to subject questions on drug pricing, in accordance to the spokesperson. But the committee declined.

A spokesperson for J&J stated the corporate appears to be like ahead to “constructing an understanding of our longstanding efforts to enhance affordability and entry to medicines.”

Last 12 months, the Senate Health Committee equally heard testimony from the CEOs of Moderna, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi on high drug prices. 

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