Drug executives face U.S. lawmakers on high prices of prescriptions

    Richard A. Gonzalez , Chairman and Chief Executive Officer AbbVie Inc., far left, testifies as from l-r, Pascal Soriot, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer AstraZeneca, Giovanni Caforio, M.D. Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Jennifer Taubert, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Johnson & Johnson, Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Merck & Co., Inc., Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D. Chief Executive Office Pfizer, Olivier Brandicourt, M.D. Chief Executive Officer Sanofi, look on as they wait their turn before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    WASHINGTON (SBG) - On Capitol Hill, executives from seven major drug companies faced lawmakers Tuesday.

    In a rare bipartisan grilling, Senators demanded answers over a top concern for millions of Americans.

    "We're all trying to understand the sticker shock that many drugs generate," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which held the hearing.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, attends a hearing on drug prices, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Between 2006 and 2014, prices for drugs rose an average of 57% and prices for drugs with no generic substitutes rose by 142%, as outlined in the book: Drugs, Money and Secret Handshakes: The Unstoppable Growth of Prescription Drug Prices.

    Some lawmakers say they drug companies get away with much more in the United States, including spending more on marketing - including directly to doctors - than they do on research and development.

    "The system is broken, "said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D, Connecticut in an interview Tuesday. "Patents are abused. Prices are raised without justification," he added.

    CEO’s from the seven pharmaceutical companies had suggestions.

    "It would be very helpful if we could relieve patients of their obligation to pay co-pays for the cheaper biosimilars," suggested Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co.

    "What we need to do in order to realign is to get rid of the reward being based on listing price," said Dr. Olivier Brandicourt, CEO of Sanofi.

    The White House is also pushing for more transparency, including requiring drug companies to publish list prices in advertisements.

    "I think a lot of companies are going to be embarrassed by having everybody know just what their list prices are it’s something they’ve worked to not make available,' said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in an interview in October.

    In addition to Tuesday's hearing, there are other signals new laws could be on the horizon.

    The top Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, have just launched an investigation into several companies which manufacture insulin. Despite being on the market for nearly a hundred years, the list price has increased more than 500%.

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