The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: (202) 588-1000

Senator Sanders’ HELP Committee Subpoenas Merck, Johnson & Johnson CEOs

“Time’s Up” For Big Pharma Abuses, Says Public Citizen

Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subpoenaed the CEOs of Merck and Johnson & Johnson to testify before a committee hearing on “outrageously high drug prices”. The companies are among the 10 manufacturers of drugs chosen for Medicare price negotiations under the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

While the pharmaceutical industry claims that negotiating with Medicare will harm research and development, a new report by Public Citizen and Protect our Care reveals that the manufacturers of the drugs selected for Medicare price negotiation spent $10 billion more on stock buybacks, dividends to shareholders, and executive compensation than they spent on research and development in 2022.

In response, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, released the following statement.

“Time’s up for the prescription drug price gougers.

“For too long, Big Pharma executives have behaved as if they are immune from accountability. They take publicly funded research; skyrocket prices to the moon, forcing patients to ration or skip medications they need; and then laugh as the very government that paid for the original research accepts without negotiation their outrageous prices, paying multiples of what other countries pay.

“Merck charges 30 times more for a diabetes drug in the United States than it does in France. Johnson & Johnson charges almost five times more for a blood cancer drug in the United States than it does in Germany.

“Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is paying out more in stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation than they are spending on research and development, even though R&D is the only claimed rationale for high prices.

“The pharma profiteers know exactly what they are doing. They know how they are forcing rationing. They know they are ripping off the government and taxpayers. And they know they are getting rich.

“What’s different now is that they can no longer escape public accountability. The Merck and Johnson & Johnson CEOs thought they could simply ignore the Senate health committee demand that they testify and justify their practices. Think again.

“The hearings at which they will be forced to testify are another key marker in the process of rationalizing prescription drug pricing policy in the United States. The price negotiation provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act were a start. The Biden administration’s announcement of a framework to use its authority to override patent monopolies is another. It’s a new day, Big Pharma. Get used to it.”

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000