Feb 26, 2019

7 pharma CEOs will sit in the Senate's hot seat

Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Seven pharmaceutical CEOs will face off against the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday in what could be the beginning of a bipartisan push to reduce drug prices.

What we're watching: Pharma would rather not be here, but if there's a silver lining for the industry, it's that this hearing — with 7 drug companies and no one else — is a pretty big platform to try to shift the blame to pharmacy benefit managers.

  • Expect to hear these executives return repeatedly to PBMs, arguing that even as drug prices rise, drug companies aren't keeping the extra money. Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) seems to be prepared for this already.

The big picture: Pharma is weaker on Capitol Hill right now than it has been in a very long time, and President Trump's willingness to take on the industry has frayed drugmakers' usual alliances with the GOP.

  • If lawmakers want to home in on specific issues within the drug-pricing system, this is a great opportunity.
  • You could do a lot worse, for example, than pressing AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez about the thicket of patents that continue to stave off competition for Humira, the world's best-selling drug.

Yes, but: Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

  • The House held a big angry hearing with Martin Shkreli in 2015, and Mylan CEO Heather Bresch in 2016. No laws changed either time. Both Daraprim and Mylan’s Epi-Pen cost just as much today as they did during those hearings.
  • As Kaiser Health News recently noted, lawmakers were incensed about the price of drugs at similar hearings 60 years ago. And yet, here we are.

Go deeper: Ohio is fighting back against one of the nation's biggest PBMs

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Fear of coronavirus pandemic escalates

Photo: Abdulgani Basheer/AFP/Getty Images

In the blink of an eye, we've entered a new phase on the coronavirus.

The big picture: Italy, Iran and South Korea are at "decisive" points in their responses, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Stocks fall 4% as sell-off worsens

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 4% on Thursday, extending the market’s worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 following a spike in coronavirus cases around the world.

The big picture: All three indices are in correction, down over 10% from recent record-highs, amid a global market rout. It's the S&P 500's quickest decline into correction territory in the index's history, per Deutsche Bank.

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health