Sanders says pharma CEOs facing possible subpoenas will testify about drug prices

The CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck have agreed to testify at a Senate hearing in February about prescription drug prices and will not face a subpoena, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing will take place on Feb. 8. Johnson & Johnson CEO Joaquin Duato, Merck CEO Robert Davis and Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner will testify.

The announcement comes one day after Sanders held a press conference to needle the executives for refusing to testify because they did not have the expertise.

The committee was scheduled to vote Jan. 31 on subpoenas for the testimony of the CEOs, but Sanders said that is no longer needed. They would have been the first subpoenas issued by the HELP Committee in more than 40 years.

“The use of a subpoena was clearly a last resort and I’m delighted that these CEOs will be coming into our committee voluntarily,” Sanders said in a statement.

The Vermont senator said he wants the executives to explain why their companies charge substantially higher prices for medicine in the U.S. compared to other countries.

All three companies manufacture some of the most expensive drugs sold in the U.S., including the diabetes medication Januvia from Merck, the blood cancer drug Imbruvica from Johnson & Johnson and the blood thinner sold as Eliquis from Bristol Myers Squibb.

Merck initially offered to have the head of its U.S. business testify, because that is the executive responsible for pricing strategy. Johnson & Johnson also initially offered a different executive.

Merck claimed that Sanders’s planned subpoena was a retaliatory action by the committee for the company’s decision to sue the federal government over the Medicare drug price negotiation program that Democrats signed into law in 2022.

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