Drug makers try to justify prescription prices to Senators at hearing

April 8, 2019New York Times (02/27/19) Pear, Robert

Pharmaceutical executives on Tuesday testified before the Senate Finance Committee and had difficulty explaining why many brand-name prescription drugs are much more expensive in the United States than in other developed countries. "It is almost as if the taxpayer has 'stupid' written on their face," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told the seven executives. Cassidy joined two other Republican senators, Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Cornyn of Texas, and all the Democrats on the panel in expressing serious concern about constituents who could not afford the drugs they needed to survive. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), representing a state that is home to many drug and biotechnology companies, offered what he described as "a friendly warning" to the executives. "If you don't take meaningful action to reduce prescription drug prices," he said, "policymakers are going to do it for you." The drug company executives expressed opposition to the Trump administration's proposal for Medicare to pay for certain prescription drugs based on the prices paid in other developed countries. "American patients have access to cancer medicines about two years earlier than patients in other countries, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom," said Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca. As a result, he suggested, U.S. patients have generally seen greater improvements in cancer survival rates.

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