NEWS: Chairman Sanders Announces HELP Committee Votes on Subpoenas for Johnson & Johnson and Merck CEOs

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 – At a time when the United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), announced today that the committee will, on Wednesday, January 31, hold votes to issue subpoenas for Johnson & Johnson CEO Joaquin Duato and Merck CEO Robert Davis to provide testimony about why their companies charge substantially higher prices for medicine in the U.S. compared to other countries. If authorized, these would be the first subpoenas issued by the HELP Committee since 1981.

Sanders was pleased that Chris Boerner, the CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb, has agreed to testify in the HELP Committee alongside at least one of the other pharmaceutical CEOs.

This follows a majority of senators on the HELP Committee, on November 21, 2023, inviting all three of the pharmaceutical CEOs to a committee hearing to explain why it is that one out of four Americans cannot afford to take the medicine their doctors prescribe while prescription drug companies make billions in profits and pay their CEOs exorbitant compensation packages.

Sanders said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck have refused an invitation by a majority of members on the HELP Committee to appear before Congress about the outrageously high price of prescription drugs. These CEOs may make tens of millions of dollars in compensation. The pharmaceutical companies they run may make billions in profits. But that does not give them a right to evade congressional oversight. It is time to hold these pharmaceutical companies accountable for charging the American people the highest prices in the world for the medicine they need. As the HELP Committee considers legislation to lower prescription drug prices, it is critical that these CEOs explain how they determine the price of medicine in the United States.”

Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Bristol Myers Squibb sell some of the most expensive and widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. relative to the price of those drugs in other countries. For example:

  • Merck sells Januvia, a drug for diabetes, for $6,000 in the U.S. compared to just $900 in Canada and $200 in France. Merck also sells Keytruda, a cancer treatment, for $191,000 in the U.S., but just $89,000 in Germany.
  • Johnson & Johnson sells Imbruvica, a drug for blood cancer, for $204,000 in the U.S. compared to just $46,000 in the U.K. and $43,000 in Germany. Johnson & Johnson also sells Symtuza, an HIV drug, for $56,000 in the U.S. but just $14,000 in Canada.
  • Bristol Myers Squibb sells Eliquis, a blood thinner, for $6,700 in the U.S. compared to just $900 in Canada and $650 in France.

In 2022, Johnson & Johnson made $17.9 billion in profit and its CEO, Joaquin Duato, received $27.6 million in compensation. That same year, Merck made $14.5 billion in profit and its CEO, Robert Davis, made $52.5 million in compensation; while Bristol Myers Squibb made $6.3 billion in profits and its former CEO, Giovanni Caforio, made $41.4 million in compensation.

This Congress, five CEOs have agreed to voluntarily testify in the HELP Committee. Four out of the five were pharmaceutical CEOs including the CEOs of Moderna, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. Last year, the CEO of Moderna committed to Chairman Sanders during a HELP Committee hearing that Moderna would set up a patient assistance program so that no one in America would have to pay for their vaccine out of pocket. In a separate HELP Committee hearing last year, the CEO of Eli Lilly committed to Chairman Sanders that his company would not raise prices on existing insulin products.