Tomorrow, three high-profile pharmaceutical company CEOs, including Johnson & Johnson, are expected to testify before the Senate about the soaring prices of critical medications for chronic illnesses that Americans are forced to pay. The Senate Health Committee is holding the hearing to address this issue and to discuss the pending lawsuits filed by the companies to stop federally mandated Medicare negotiations to lower drug prices. Medicare, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, has been given the authority to negotiate prices for essential medications, which has provoked the ire of big Pharma.
The hearing aims to delve into the issue of exorbitant medication costs for Americans and the pending litigation over Medicare negotiations. This issue was highlighted last year when Congressman Ro Khanna questioned Johnson & Johnson Assistant General Counsel Aviva Wein about the leukemia medication Imbruvica. Khanna revealed that one tablet of Imbruvica costs $484, amounting to roughly $14,000 per month for medication. In a year, a blood cancer patient would spend $160,000. Khanna also pointed out that Johnson & Johnson had made $22 billion off of Imbruvica in the past ten years.
Johnson & Johnson is one of several pharmaceutical companies suing the federal government over the Inflation Reduction Act’s requirement for Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The lawsuit claims that this negotiation constitutes an “unjust taking” and violates the Fifth Amendment’s ‘Takings Clause’. The lawsuit argues that the government is taking medications from the company without providing appropriate payment. A critical question posed in relation to this lawsuit is whether the government negotiating for drug prices violates the Takings Clause.
Congressman Khanna also questioned the exorbitant medication prices compared to costs in other countries like Canada and France. He highlighted that medications are significantly more expensive in the United States. An upcoming Senate Health Committee hearing with CEOs from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol Myers Squibb is expected to address the issue of drug prices. Of note, medications such as Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia, Johnson & Johnson’s blood cancer treatment Imbruvica, and Myers Squibb’s blood thinner Eliquis are set for negotiation with Medicare.
The controversy over high medication prices not only impacts Medicare but has broader implications for all Americans who have to pay more than people in other countries for the same medications. For example, the list price for Merck’s Januvia is $6,900 in the United States compared to $200 in France. Similarly, Johnson & Johnson’s psoriasis drug Stelara has a list price of $79,000 in the US and $16,000 in the United Kingdom. The hearing is expected to address these disparities and investigate why Americans are being charged more for essential medications than citizens of other countries.
This hearing has far-reaching political, economic, and social implications, especially considering the recent inflammatory debates over high medication prices and the conflicting interests of both pharmaceutical companies and the government. The hearing is an opportunity to question and hold accountable the pharmaceutical companies that play a significant role in determining medication costs. Thus, the Senate Health Committee has a responsibility to thoroughly address this issue and provide the public with answers.