J&J, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb CEOs defend drug prices at Senate hearing

The CEOs of three major pharmaceutical companies defended the prices of their drugs before the Senate Health Committee on Thursday, further embroiling her in a confrontation with lawmakers and the Biden administration over the cost of some of the most widely used prescription drugs.

Lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the panel’s chairman, noted that the companies charge more in the United States than in other wealthy countries and accused them of profiting at the expense of American patients. Pharmaceutical executives – from Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb – acknowledged that patients in the United States were paying too much, but said new drugs were arriving there faster than anywhere else in the world.

Mr. Sanders, an independent politician who made curbing drug prices a major focus of his late career in Congress, acknowledged that the companies had produced life-saving drugs. However, he highlighted several widely used medications, including Bristol Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Eliquis, which he said is available for much less in Canada than in the United States.

“These drugs mean nothing to anyone who can’t afford them,” Sanders said, adding that “millions upon millions of our population cannot afford the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs in this country.”

The three executives who testified – Joaquin Duato of Johnson & Johnson, Robert M. Davis of Merck and Christopher Boerner of Bristol Myers Squibb – acknowledged that drug prices in the United States are often higher than in other wealthy countries.

But they said lower prices in Europe and Canada, where governments are more concerned about containing costs, came with key drawbacks, such as long waits for new drugs and limited insurance coverage.

“The United States has built a health care system that emphasizes patient and physician choice and the broad and rapid availability of advanced medicines,” Mr…. said.

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