Hearings on 'sky-high' drug prices show how little has changed in 60 years - (CNN via NewsPoints Desk)

  • Historical testimony reveals that lawmakers have long questioned pharmaceutical companies about rising drug prices, CNN reported Monday.

  • Hearings led by Senator Estes Kefauver in 1959 and 1960 were the first to scrutinise pricing trends in the pharmaceutical sector, while executives from AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, J Merck & Co., Pfizer and Sanofi are set to testify before Congress later this week.

  • "Every decade since the Kefauver hearings has seen at least one set of congressional hearings into the increasing prices of prescription drugs," said Johns Hopkins University drug-industry historian Jeremy Greene.

  • "[Drugmakers] were advised that whenever the senators mentioned high prices, just mention research and how difficult it is, how expensive it is," explained Donald Light, a health policy professor at Rowan University, adding "since 1959, that is the repeated and successful theme of Big Pharma."

  • The Kefauver Harris Amendment of 1962, passed after the initial hearings on drug pricing, set standards for medical trials and laid the groundwork for the modern drug-approval process, but cost-control measures were not included in the final bill.

  • Austin Smith, then president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, argued that such legal measures were not necessary because drug prices were rising at a slower rate than inflation.

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