MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The nation’s top drug makers were on the hot seat Wednesday on Capitol Hill, grilled over the soaring costs of medication.
Pharmaceutical executives defended their pricing policies before the House Oversight Committee, at times admitting to the enormous strain on Americans.
According to Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), “One-in-four Americans taking prescription drugs report difficulty in affording them.”
The committee released the results of a year-and-a-half investigation, finding that Celgene and Teva Pharmaceuticals raised prices to boost profits and bonuses.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) challenged the former Celgene CEO, Mark Alles, on the soaring cost of the cancer drug REVLIMID.
“It does highlight that the United States is the home of medical innovation and that it is a free market,” Alles said.
Rep. Maloney said, “But since launching REVLIMID in 2005, you raised the price 22 times.”
The CDC said Americans spend more on prescription drugs than any country in the world, amounting to over $300 billion annually. After years of price increases, many are hoping Congress will take action.
In Virginia, Michael Olex has seen the price of his multiple sclerosis drug nearly triple. While his out-of-pocket payments have stayed the same, he said the rising costs are an issue.
“I want to be able to stay on the drugs to live the best life possible,” he said.
Some lawmakers questioned the purpose of the hearings.
“Instead of considering potential reforms in a productive and bipartisan manner these hearings seem designed to simply vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives,” said Representative James Comer (R-KY).
Republicans backed up President Trump, claiming drug prices are dropping. But for many Americans, paying for medicine has become a daily struggle.
A recent study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Americans spend about $1,200 a year on prescriptions.