The chief executives of three major pharmaceutical companies appeared in front of the Senate health committee on Thursday to defend how much they charge for drugs in the United States, drawing them further into a confrontation with lawmakers and the Biden administration over the cost of some of the most widely used prescription medications.
The three executives testifying — Joaquin Duato of Johnson & Johnson, Robert M. Davis of Merck and Christopher Boerner of Bristol Myers Squibb — are expected to clash with the health committee’s chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who has made reining in drug prices a signature cause of his late-career years in Congress.
Mr. Sanders focused the hearing on why drug prices are higher in the United States than in other wealthy countries. His staff has singled out several widely used drugs, including Eliquis, a blood thinner made by Bristol Myers Squibb, and Januvia, a diabetes drug from Merck, that can be bought for much less in Canada and Europe than in the United States.
Drugmakers “are doing phenomenally well while Americans cannot afford the cost of the medicine they need,” Mr. Sanders said in his opening statement, adding that the “overwhelming beneficiary of these high drug prices is the pharmaceutical industry.”
The hearing comes as a new federal program authorizing Medicare to negotiate the prices of some costly medications is getting underway. Federal health officials last week made their initial offers to the makers of the first 10 drugs selected for negotiations, a list that includes Eliquis and Januvia.