Posted by on November 21, 2023 4:41 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Sanders and Democrats set hearing to grill pharmaceutical company CEOs

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), left, joins Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sanders and Democrats set hearing to grill pharmaceutical company CEOs

Gabrielle M. Etzel November 21, 04:17 PM November 21, 04:17 PM Video Embed

Senate Democrats intend to grill the executives of three major pharmaceutical companies at a hearing at the start of next year’s legislative session, setting an aggressive prescription drug price agenda for 2024.

All 11 Democratic members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee requested voluntary testimony on Jan. 25 from the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb, with the goal of addressing the effects of high prescription drug prices on public health.


“The American people have a right to know why it is that they pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. makes hundreds of billions in profits and pays their CEOs tens of millions of dollars in compensation,” Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in a press release.

The senators asked all three CEOs why the U.S. pays “by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs” and why 1 in 4 people cannot afford to take their medications as prescribed.

“Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb sell some of the most expensive and widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. relative to the price of those drugs in other countries,” the committee said in a press release.

Sanders and the other Democratic members cited Merck’s Januvia for diabetes, J&J’s Imbruvica for blood cancer, and BMS’s Eliquis for high blood pressure as examples of exorbitantly priced drugs.

All three drugs have been selected as part of the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program, established as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

There are nearly 3.7 million Medicare patients on Eliquis, costing the program $16.5 billion annually, according to estimates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS also estimates that there are nearly 870,000 Medicare enrollees on Januvia and 20,000 on Imbruvica, which respectively cost the program $4.1 billion and $2.6 billion per year.

Sanders has made tackling the costs of prescription drugs a priority in 2023. From May until September, Sanders blocked President Joe Biden’s pick to be director of the National Institutes of Health, Monica Bertagnolli, until the Biden administration committed to reform in drug pricing.

Although he eventually granted a hearing for Bertagnolli’s confirmation earlier this month, Sanders opposed Bertagnolli’s confirmation, saying that he did not believe she would be tough enough against pharmaceutical companies.

“A life-saving drug is not effective if the patient who needs that drug cannot afford it,” said Sanders.


BMS responded to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment by confirming receipt of the letter and saying that the company “will respond to the Committee directly.”

Neither J&J nor Merck responded to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.

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