Feb 27, 2019

Big Pharma won its Capitol Hill hearing

Seven pharmaceutical CEOs testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Seven of the pharmaceutical industry's top CEOs came to Capitol Hill yesterday, spent a few hours pointing the finger at pharmacy benefit managers, and went home largely unscathed.

Between the lines: The pharma CEOs were able to stick to their plan. No one on the Finance Committee backed any of them into a corner, or knocked them very far off their talking points, or made them commit to anything they might regret. Their stocks were unaffected.

  • Most notably, the CEOs praised the Trump administration's plan to eliminate PBM rebates in Medicare. But they didn't commit to lowering their list prices as a result; some suggested that might only happen if Congress also eliminates rebates in commercial insurance.

Yes, but: Pharma isn't out of the woods. The headwinds it faced before the hearing — the general political climate, the nascent bipartisan interest in patent reform, and an unpredictable administration — are all still there. And this isn't the end of congressional oversight on drug prices.

My thought bubble: The committee's hearing may not have been industry's dream. In pharma's ideal world, it wouldn't have happened at all. But it was awfully close to the next-best thing.

Go deeper: Pharma's grip on the health care economy

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,237,420 — Total deaths: 67,260 — Total recoveries: 252,944Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 312,762 — Total deaths: 9.132 — Total recoveries: 15,044Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state "literally going day-to-day" with supplies.
  6. Work update: Employees still going to work face temperature checks, distanced work stations, protective devices and mass absences.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Cuomo says New York is "literally going day-to-day with our supplies"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday that New York is struggling to maintain medical supplies while combatting the novel coronavirus — operating "literally" on a "day-to-day" basis.

Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.

Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."