Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines

Welcome to Wednesday night’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re waiting to see if there’s going to be a deal on a new COVID-19 relief package.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump


© Washington Examiner/Pool
Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was ‘taken out of context’ by Trump

Top House Democrat: Parties ‘much closer’ to a COVID deal ‘than we’ve ever been’

Loading...

Load Error

The head of the House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that the negotiators seeking an emergency coronavirus deal are “much closer” to a deal than they have been at any point during the long weeks of on-again-off-again talks.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pointed to comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicating a willingness to embrace $1.5 trillion in new stimulus spending – a number on par with the bipartisan relief package offered last week by the Problem Solvers Caucus – noting that that figure is far closer to the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package than Republicans have previously backed.

After almost two months of stalled talks, Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have resumed the negotiations this week by phone. In some sign that progress is being made, Mnuchin met with Pelosi in the Speaker’s office on Wednesday afternoon.

Read more here.

House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses

An explosive staff report from the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee found that the CEOs of Teva and Celgene raised drug prices exponentially for no reason other than to boost profits and inflate executives’ bonuses.

Oversight Democrats at a hearing on Wednesday pressed those CEOs, and put them on the defensive.

Highlights: Internal documents obtained by the committee found Celgene raised the price of the cancer drug Revlimid 22 times.

The drug, approved to treat the blood cancer multiple myeloma, more than tripled in price since its launch in 2005, driven almost exclusively by the need to meet company revenue targets and shareholder earnings goals.

In 2005, a monthly supply of Revlimid was priced at $4,515. Today, the same monthly supply is priced at $16,023, a cost of $719 per pill.

Easy target: The report found that executives at Celgene and Teva specifically targeted the U.S. market for massive increases because Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices.

Context: The Democratic-led report comes just weeks before Election Day, and follows a flurry of mostly empty last-ditch efforts by President Trump aimed at showing he is taking action on drug pricing. Trump has made lowering drug prices a key part of his messaging for years, dating back to the 2016 campaign, but has little to show for all his bluster.

Read more here.

Atlas, health officials feuds add to Trump coronavirus turmoil

The feuds between White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas and top public health officials are raising more questions about President Trump‘s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atlas, a

Read more

High drug prices driven by profits, House committee reports find

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.

The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, the price of which has been raised 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which has risen in price 27 times since 2007.

The costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the inquiry.

“It’s true many of these pharmaceutical industries have come up with lifesaving and pain-relieving medications, but they’re killing us with the prices they charge,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said as the hearings began Wednesday. He added, “Uninhibited pricing power has transformed America’s pain into pharma’s profit.”

The top Republican on the committee, James Comer of Kentucky, called the investigation a partisan attack. “These hearings seem designed simply to vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives,” Comer said.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

Much of the drug industry’s profits come at the expense of taxpayers and the Medicare program, say the reports, which say that they are used to pay generous executive bonuses and that they are guarded by aggressive lobbying and efforts to block competition, regulation or systemic change in the United States while the rest of the world pays less.

“The drug companies are bringing in tens of billions of dollars in revenues, making astronomical profits, and rewarding their executives with lavish compensation packages — all without any apparent limit on what they can charge,” committee chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter attached to the first two staff reports.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a former chair of the committee who died last October, launched the investigation more than a year ago. It has produced more than a million documents. CEOs of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb were testifying Wednesday.

Officials of Amgen, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis were scheduled to appear Thursday.

Celgene CEO Mark Alles verified the accuracy of the documents obtained by the committee but stuck with the standard explanation that the company’s pricing is entirely aboveboard and merited.

“The pricing decisions for our medicines were guided by a set of long-held principles that reflected our commitment to patient access, the value of a medicine to patients in the health care system, the continuous efforts to discover new medicines and new uses for existing medicines and the need for financial flexibility,” Alles said. He said that in 2018, Celgene “committed to full pricing transparency by limiting price increases to no more than once per year,” pegged to national health expenditures projected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz declined to address specific questions about much of the report, saying he took over only in 2017, in part to repair a company suffering after

Read more

High drug prices driven by profits, House panel report finds

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.



a group of people standing in front of a television


© Provided by NBC News


The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007.

Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the probe.

“It’s true, many of these pharmaceutical industries have come up with lifesaving and pain-relieving medications, but they’re killing us with the prices they charge,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) as the hearings began Wednesday. He added that “uninhibited pricing power has transformed America’s pain into pharma’s profit.”

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, called the investigation a partisan attack. “These hearings seem designed simply to vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives,” Comer said.

Much of the drug industry’s profits come at the expense of taxpayers and the Medicare program, are used to pay generous executive bonuses and are guarded by aggressive lobbying and efforts to block competition, regulation or systemic change in the United States while the rest of the world pays less, the reports say.

“The drug companies are bringing in tens of billions of dollars in revenues, making astronomical profits, and rewarding their executives with lavish compensation packages — all without any apparent limit on what they can charge,” committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter attached to the first two staff reports.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the former committee chairperson who died last October, had launched the probe more than a year ago. It has since produced more than a million documents. CEOs of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb were testifying Wednesday.

Amgen, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis were scheduled to appear Thursday.

Celgene CEO Mark Alles verified the accuracy of the documents obtained by the committee but stuck with the standard explanations that the company’s pricing is entirely aboveboard and merited.

“The pricing decisions for our medicines were guided by a set of long-held principles that reflected our commitment to patient access, the value of a medicine to patients in the health care system, the continuous efforts to discover new medicines and new uses for existing medicines and the need for financial flexibility,” Alles said. He said that in 2018 Celgene “committed to full pricing transparency by limiting price increases to no more than once per year,” pegged to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ projected national health expenditures.

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz demurred from addressing specific questions about much of the report, saying he took over only in 2017, in part to repair a company suffering after its Copaxone patent finally expired.

He also sounded the familiar refrain that prices

Read more