Big Pharma CEOs in the hot seat on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Three CEOs in charge of some of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical companies were in the hot seat as lawmakers grilled them about sky-high drug prices on Capitol Hill Thursday.

“The outrageous costs of prescription drugs in America means that one out of four of our people go to the doctor, get a prescription and they cannot afford to fill that prescription,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said.

Joaquin Duato, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Robert Davis, CEO of Merck and Chris Boerner, CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb were grilled by lawmakers about drug prices during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing.

“At various times in each one of your statements, you talked about your price reflecting the value of your product. And the thing is human health and life is priceless, so if that’s the metric here, you will always have an excuse for charging increasing prices for these life-saving drugs,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), said.

All three CEOs testified that they are open to lowering drug prices but offered no real solutions on how to do so.

“At the same time, many Americans are struggling to afford healthcare, including prescription medicines and we are eager to find solutions to these access and affordability challenges,” Davis of Merck said.

“We believe we have an important role to play in prioritizing the development of medicines that will bring savings to the healthcare system and as an industry we should set a higher bar for doing just that,” Boerner of Bristol Myers Squibb said.

Sen. Sanders’ questions focused on why prescription prices are higher in the U.S. than other countries.

“Our prices are based on the value our medicines bring to patients, the health care system and society,” Duato of Johnson & Johnson said.

The CEOs of Merck and Johnson & Johnson agreed to testify only after they were threatened with subpoenas.

Following testimony from CEOs, lawmakers heard from a separate panel of experts to address the same topic.

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