Expect Pharma Execs To Be Grilled Today

Leaders of seven of the largest drug companies to appear before the Senate Finance Committee.

Fox-henhouse concerns will shadow the proceedings today as leaders of seven of the largest drugmakers give an accounting to the Senate Finance Committee about why drugs cost so much. Kaiser Health News has a nice bulleted rundown this morning on what to expect that includes the tidbit that Committee members received more than $2 million from PACs associated with pharmaceutical companies.

The story notes that campaign donations don’t necessarily translate into political influence, but they do present the appearance of undue influence. And just why the cost of drugs has been rising is complicated. While lawmakers, patient advocates and others complain about skyrocketing prescription drug costs, PhRMA counters that retail medicine costs grew 0.4% in 2017, and that’s the slowest growth rate since 2012.

“It is likely you’ll hear these statements again Tuesday,” KHN reports. “Both are true. Neither tells the whole story.”

KHN warns readers to be skeptical of drugmakers’ claims that prices remain high because it costs $2.6 billion in research and development to bring a drug to market. That number, from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, is misleading, many experts say, and doesn’t really reflect the current methods that big pharma uses to launch a new drug.

It has become "increasingly common for drugmakers to acquire breakthrough treatments not through their own R&D but instead by purchasing smaller companies that have discovered a new drug,” KHN reports. “Pfizer, the biggest drugmaker in the world, owes much of its growth to this practice.”