Grassley at Big Pharma: "I'm tired of the game of blame"



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"We have all seen the finger in the finger.All links in the supply chain have gained skills in this area," said Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. . "But like most Americans, I'm fed up with the blame game, it's time to find solutions."

Grassley's comments were the first fireworks of what promised to grill some of the country's leading pharmaceutical leaders over the exorbitant drug prices in America.

Seven pharmaceutical executives testified before the committee, the largest gathering of pharmaceutical executives in decades before a congressional panel. The rising costs of the drug has become a hot political subject. President Donald Trump has pledged to take action to lower prices and legislators on both sides of the aisle have made similar commitments.

"The United States has a problem with the high cost of prescription drugs," Grassley said. "We are all trying to understand the shock caused by the sticker generated by many drugs, especially when some of these drugs have been around for a long time."

He said that he had heard of people who left their prescriptions at the pharmacy counter because the drugs were too expensive and those who skipped "doses of their drugs to make them last until the next paycheck ".

"I'm not a doctor, but rationing his medication does not seem to be a safe prescription for health and well-being," Grassley said.

He acknowledged that drug pricing is a complex issue, but then said, "But I think we should all ask ourselves: Should it be so complex?

"We can not allow anyone to hide behind the current complexities to protect the real cost of a drug," he said. "And we should not turn a blind eye to industry practices that thwart laws and regulations designed to promote competition and market entry of generic drugs."

Grassley wrote an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Monks' register. He said that he wanted answers to a simple question: "Why are prescription drug prices steadily increasing?"
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Sen. Ron Wyden, a prominent member of the committee, described the soaring drug prices as "morally repugnant" and ridiculed the pharmacy executives present, saying they were "unacceptable" in their business.

"The prices of drugs are astronomical because that's where pharmaceutical companies and their investors want them," said Wyden, D-Oregon.

Wyden also criticized AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot for complaining about his $ 12 million salary, considered "the lowest paid CEO in the industry".

"He said it was" annoying to a certain extent, "Wyden said." Meanwhile, his company continues to raise the price of Symbicort. "

Last week, Grassley and Wyden opened an insulin price survey, sending letters to leading manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi about their recent price increases of up to 500% .

Earlier in the hearing, Wyden said he was there several decades ago when tobacco industry officials were summoned to Congress to explain it. "They lied that day," Wyden said. "This president and I are expecting better than that today."

Sanofi's CEO, Olivier Brandicourt, was one of the executives present for the audience. Brandicourt told lawmakers that there was no single cause for rising costs and that it was time to look comprehensively at the issue.

"I understand anger," he says.

The other officers called to testify were Richard A. Gonzalez, president and CEO of AbbVie; Soriot, executive director and CEO of AstraZeneca; Giovanni Caforio, President and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb; Jennifer Taubert, President and Executive Vice President of Johnson & Johnson; Kenneth C. Frazier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Merck; and Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer.

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In recent years, each company has seen its price rise dramatically at least one of its drugs, which has allowed it to gain considerable profits. Each executive has testified to his willingness to help reduce prices to a certain extent.

More than 650 products experienced price increases this year, early February, according to Rx Savings Solutions, which sells software to employers and insurers to reduce drug costs. The industry justifies these changes as essential for investing in research and development. Drug manufacturers often point out that they see very little of these increases because of the large discounts they distribute to other players in the supply chain, including insurers and drug benefit managers, who in turn blame pharmaceutical companies to set high list prices.

Among the Trump administration's economy ideas, it is suggested to set the reimbursement level of certain drugs administered in physician offices and outpatient hospital centers according to their cost in from other countries, which generally pay much less. The so-called International Price Index model has already suffered many setbacks, including some Republican lawmakers.

Democrats have begun to press for a plan allowing the government to directly negotiate Medicare's prescription drug prices, saying that such a move could save billions of dollars. The pharmaceutical industry has long resisted such a change.

Bourla de Pfizer said his company is committed to reform, but any reform should cover all segments of the market. He said that rising drug prices were causing difficulties for Americans.

"This forces patients not to take the necessary medications or to limit their doses," Bourla said. "It's bad."

Wyden was excited after the opening statement, blaming the leaders for blaming other problems and not focusing enough on reducing catalog prices.

"All these things are showcases," retorted Wyden. "You are blocking the key problem."

He asked AbbVie's Gonzalez if the company was making money in drugs in countries like Germany and other westernized countries where patients pay on average 40% less than Americans.

"Yes, we do," said Gonzalez.

If that's the case, said Wyden, "you can do the same thing in the United States."

"How does this not attack the American consumer?" "You are ready to give up the American consumer and give breaks to those who are abroad."

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican with Parkinson's disease, said that he had recently gone to get one of his seven drugs from a pharmacy. One of the drugs, he said, was $ 90 more than in December.

"I said:" How can that be? "

In an hour, he said, the pharmacy returned with four different prices for the same drug. He stated that it was "difficult" to be an elected official if you can not explain the price of drugs to your constituents.

"I can not explain the cost increases," said Isakson. "We have to get to the bottom of things."

Kate Sullivan and Tami Luhby of CNN contributed to this report.

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