On second thought, Big Pharma CEOs decide to show up at Senate pricing hearings

U.S. Capitol at dusk
Drug company executives will testify "one way or another," a prominent senator tweeted. Merck's CEO Ken Frazier agreed to attend a hearing later this month. (Pixabay)

Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, vowed to haul pharma CEOs into Senate hearings on drug prices. Now, CEOs for Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AbbVie have heeded the call.

The CEOs are set to testify at a hearing later this month before the Senate Committee on Finance, representatives for the companies confirmed. Johnson & Johnson's worldwide pharma chairman Jennifer Taubert plans to attend as well, a spokesman said. An AstraZeneca spokeswoman said the company is reviewing the request.

“One way or another,” the executives will testify, Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., tweeted Tuesday. 

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The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 26, will be the committee’s second on drug prices this year. At the first hearing, held last week, lawmakers discussed bolstering price competition in Medicare, “Netflix” drug purchasing models like Lousiana's new approach to hepatitis C drugs, value-based pricing and more. 

Wyden blasted the pharmaceutical executives after they "refused" to face the committee at the first hearing to “justify the skyrocketing cost of their prescription drugs.” Now, he said, “enough is enough.” He’s previously threatened to use the committee’s power to compel executives to testify. 

RELATED: Republicans and Democrats unite with Trump on pledge to lower drug prices. Is it just talk? 

The new round of invites come as drug pricing continues to dominate headlines in Washington, D.C. During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Donald Trump touched on his administration’s work in drug prices, saying that it's “unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.”

The president further pushed for more drug pricing transparency, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar tweeted a shout-out to the administration's new push to abolish drug rebates. 

Of course, all of the developments follow years of discussion on the topic. While the Trump administration is pushing forward with efforts to lower prices, it remains to be seen whether Congress can reach a consensus on how best to address high U.S. drug costs.

Editor's note: This story was updated Thursday morning with the latest company responses to the invitations.