WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee on Monday announced its second drug pricing hearing of 2019, with its leadership insisting on attendance from the executives of seven major drug manufacturers: AbbVie (ABBV), AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer (PFE), and Sanofi (SNY).

At a hearing last week, both Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expressed disappointment that pharmaceutical company executives had declined their invitations to testify. Grassley, the committee chairman, said then he would be “more insistent” that executives show up at a subsequent hearing.

“Pharmaceutical companies receive billions of dollars a year from federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Grassley and Wyden said. “This is an opportunity for companies that produce life-saving treatments to explain how they price these treatments and whether the status quo is acceptable. Patients and taxpayers deserve to hear from leaders in the industry about what’s behind this unsustainable trend and what can be done to lower costs.”


Of the seven companies invited, five are already the subject of a separate investigation being conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The hearing will take place on Feb. 26, nearly a month after an initial hearing at which policy experts testified to a wide range of government or market interventions that could yield lower drug costs. It will be at least the fourth hearing in the new Congress to focus on drug costs.

The hearing announcement came the night before President Trump’s second State of the Union address, in which the president is expected to call on Congress to support legislation in line with his health department’s work on drug prices. Last week, health secretary Alex Azar rolled out an ambitious proposal to end rebates drug makers pay to insurers, and called on Congress to pass supporting legislation.

Lawmakers are split on the proposal. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), among the most powerful Republicans on Capitol Hill, strongly supported the Azar proposal when it was announced. Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) — the chairmen of the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees, respectively — said they opposed the proposal because it would increase premiums for Medicare beneficiaries.

Separately, Grassley and Wyden introduced legislation in December that aims to “recoup millions” from a “pharma ripoff” by empowering Medicaid to more aggressively police the classification of brand-name drugs as generics. With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and Trump’s White House active on pharmaceutical industry issues, Grassley’s committee is generally seen as a wild card.

While he has stopped short of crossing Republican red lines like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, Grassley has taken a nearly opposite tone on the industry and has introduced a series of bipartisan legislation ranging from his efforts with Wyden to a bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to allow personal importation of some cheaper drugs across the Canadian border.

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  • The pharmaceutical acquisitiveness are totally out of control and our government allows them to get away with this sheer greediness, per recent Senate
    Hearings. This includes all so- called Health Care Professionals, what egotistical, narcissistic, Quack/ Horse Doctor came up with that Nomenclature and P.S. My Wife is a Doctor!!!

    • The pharmaceutical acquisitiveness are and have been totally out of control, and our government; allows them to get away with this sheer greediness, by bilking, and dunning of the American public; as per recent Senate Dog and Pony show Hearings. This includes all so- called Health Care Professionals; what egotistical, narcissistic, Quack/ Horse Doctor came up with that Nomenclature and P.S. My Wife is a Doctor!!!

  • Wouldn’t it be a better idea to get the 3 big PBM’s before congress and ask them why they stole billions of dollars from the Federal and 20 state governments ?

    • The whole supply chain should be questioned. No one in the US knows exactly what a drug costs. List prices should be listed so that everyone can see partial facts. Rebates to PBMS are bribery. Higher bribe, better is the chance to get on the formulary.

  • Our legislatures can do lot of song and dance and introduce bills and whatever about drug costs but when rubber meets the road NO ONE and I mean NO ONE will vote for the benefit of electorate. Our legalized corrupt system prevents them to think of the electorate. They only think we tried but failed.

  • On the proposal to allow importation of drugs from Canada for personal use, why should the taxpayers of Canada have to subsidize the drug costs for Americans? Part of why the prices are lower in Canada is because the government subsidizes the costs. While I’m all for lower drug costs, ripping off the Canadians shouldn’t be the way to do so.

    • Can you please document or reference your claim that Canadian Government subsidizes costs? I sure would like to learn. Thank you!

  • Funny that Lilly is not one of the companies invited. I “recall” that Sec. Azar was President of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical drug company. Why not include Eli Lilly in this conversation?

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