The hearing came shortly after the Biden administration started negotiations on the price of medicines For the 10 most expensive drugs for Medicare recipients.
From five 10 drugs are ready for negotiation — blood thinners Eliquis and Xarelto, diabetes drug Januvia, blood cancer drug Imbruvica and arthritis drug Stelara — are made by one of three companies.
Sanders said the difference between the prices the three drugmakers charge for the same drug in the U.S. compared to other countries led to the three executives being subpoenaed to testify.
According to Sanders:
- Bristol Myers Squibb estimates the annual list price for Eliquis is about $7,100 in the U.S., about $900 in Canada and about $650 in France.
- J&J’s Stelara is $79,000 in the US and $16,000 in the UK.
- Merck’s Januvia costs about $6,000 in the United States, $900 in Canada, and $200 in France.
CEOs defended the costssays that these high prices are based on the “value” the drugs provide to patients.
They also noted that high prices mean that US patients often have access to drugs years before people in other countries.
“This is in stark contrast to many systems outside the U.S., which, while they may offer lower prices, are an often-overlooked buy-in where patients often wait longer for new drugs,” said Bristol Myers Squibb’s Boerner. is shopping,” he said.
The executives also said that if the US lowered the prices of their drugs, they would not be able to invest in the development of new drugs.
“Future treatment breakthroughs depend on what we do now,” Davis said.
Sanders said companies are spending more on executive compensation, stock buybacks and dividend payments to investors than on research and development.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., agreed with Sanders that drug prices in the U.S. are unreasonably high, but he also worries that aggressive policies that drive down drug prices may discourage drug manufacturers from investing in new drugs.
“Now we want to create an incentive, but we want to ensure access; without access, it’s as if the drug was never invented,” he said.
The CEOs said they supported lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers and pointed the finger at insurance companies and intermediaries known as pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate discounts with drug companies on behalf of insurance plans.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., questioned why administrators are “actively trying to block generics from the market” in support of drug cost reductions.
Bristol Myers Squibb’s Eliquis, for example, was originally set to allow generic competition in 2019, but the drugmaker has filed new patents that extend the drug’s exclusivity for several more years.
“We gave Hasan general access in 2028,” Boerner said.
“So we have two generics ready to go,” Hassan replied. “Your original patent has also expired, but you are still trying to prevent generics from entering the market.”