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Senate Consultation on drug prices renders previous inquiries: Shots



Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., (Left) and Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. (Others from the left) clashed with the reopening of a 1960's Senate drug survey on whether witnesses could be forced to disclose "business secrets" while witnesses.

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Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., (Left) and Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. (Others from the left) clashed with the reopening of a 1960's Senate drug survey on whether witnesses could be forced to disclose "business secrets" while he was witnessing.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Kenneth Frazier, chief executive of pharmaceutical giant Merck, is set to meet senators Tuesday saying medical costs are "sky-high" and "out of control".

But Frazier does not need new talk points. 60 years ago another panel of senators grilled another Merck boss about the same problem.

People who are likely to survive Tuesday – high drug prices and profits, limited pricing, aggressive marketing, alleged drug abuse, and mediocre "me-too" drugs are largely identical to the issues the Senates examined decades ago, historical transcripts .

Frazier is scheduled to testify before the Senate Financing Committee, led by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, along with the CEOs of AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer, and Sanofi, and a top manager of Johnson & Johnson.

Hearings led by Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., In 1959 and 1960, was the first major congressional investigation into rising drug costs and drug company profits. While this rebellion led to new legal standards for drug security and efficiency, cost control measures never took it to the final bill.

Health policy teachers say similar hearings show how much unfinished businesses remain and how well drug companies have protected profits and limited regulation over the years.

"Every decade since the Kefauver hearings have seen at least one set of congressional hearings in the rising prices of prescription drugs," said Dr. Jeremy Greene, a drug profile at Johns Hopkins University.

"Drove prices, especially at the high ends, are only even higher" since the 1960s, said Dr. Scott Podolsky, a healthcare professional at Harvard Medical School. "The question of openness and profitability has certainly been there from Kefauver's first day."

A Tennessee Democrat known to investigate Mafia, Kefauver launched a series of business hearings in the late 1950s. His Senate Antitrust Subcommittee began to testify to high drug prices in late 1959. "While this country has the best drugs in the world, it appears that the large number of letters received by the Subcommittee that many of our citizens are experiencing difficulties "The sessions, which lasted until September 1960, were" among the most sensational "hearings of that congress, wrote a syndicated column at that time. , Pfizer, Schering, Bristol-Myers, Upjohn, SmithKline and American Home Products Senators buried in the prices of antibiotics, corticosteroids and tranquilizers, the wonderful drugs of the time.

John Connor, then Merck's president, said he had "deep sympathy" for people who could not afford medicine, and Schering also did, but he said it was not the industry's fault.

"There is no doubt that someone finds It is difficult to pay for the necessary medication. They will also have trouble meeting their rental and billing bills, "said Francis Brown, Schering's president at the time." It's about insufficient income rather than high prices. "


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