VIDEO: Menendez Issues ‘Friendly Warning’ to Pharma Execs Testifying at Senate Hearing

VIDEO: Menendez Issues ‘Friendly Warning’ to Pharma Execs Testifying at Senate Hearing

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today warned executives from seven of the largest pharmaceutical companies—including several based in New Jersey—that either they take proactive steps to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs, or Congress will do it for them.  Sen. Menendez pushed the executives testifying before the Committee on whether they used any of their billions in tax breaks due to the Trump Tax Law to lower drug prices—several indicated they had not—and got commitments from each that they’d support legislation the Senator has cosponsored to increase competition from lower cost generics.

“I’m proud our state is at the forefront of innovation.  But even in New Jersey, where the pharmaceutical industry and related fields like medical research employ hundreds of thousands of people, the overwhelming majority of my more than 9 million constituents believe drug prices are too high,” Sen. Menendez told the drug company execs.  “So consider this a friendly warning from someone who believes in the hope you provide patients in need of new cures and treatments.  Now is the time to be proactive, because if you do not take meaningful action to reduce prescription drug prices, policymakers are inevitably going to do it for you.”

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The following pharmaceutical execs testified today before the Senate Finance Committee:

  • Jennifer Taubert, Executive VP, Worldwide Chairman, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, N.J.
  • Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and CEO, Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J.
  • Olivier Brandicourt, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, Sanofi, Bridgewater, N.J.
  • Giovanni Caforio, M.D., Chairman and CEO, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., New York
  • Albert Bourla, DVM, Ph.D., CEO, Pfizer, New York
  • Richard A. Gonzalez, Chairman and CEO, AbbVie Inc., North Chicago, Ill.
  • Pascal Soriot, Executive Director and CEO, AstraZeneca, Wilmington, Del.

AbbVie, Pfizer and Merck each reportedly spent $10 billion of their tax windfall buying back their own stock, Bristol Meyers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson spent $5 billion apiece, and Sanofi spent $1.7 billion.  Records for AstraZeneca were not immediately available.

Sen. Menendez asked the executives, “Did any of you use your tax breaks to lower the costs of any of your prescription drugs?”

“We did not use our tax breaks to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” responded AbbVie CEO Richard A. Gonzalez

In response to a separate question from Sen. Menendez, all seven pharmaceutical executives testifying before Congress committed their support for the bipartisan Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act. The legislation, cosponsored by Menendez, cracks down on drug companies that intentionally delay the required sharing of product samples with generic manufacturers to develop generic, lower cost versions of the brand-name drug.  Under the bill, the branded pharmaceutical company could be held civilly liable and subject to damages for not providing samples in a timely fashion.  Sen. Menendez cosponsored the CREATES Act in the last Congress.