Sen. Bill Cassidy questions Big Pharma execs over rising drug prices

Local families feel the impact of expensive medications

La. representatives react to drug pricing

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana took part in a highly anticipated congressional hearing that brought top executives of several pharmaceutical companies to Capitol Hill over rising prescription drug prices.

Cassidy is a medical doctor and sees firsthand the impact of expensive drugs.

"Some of my patients could not afford the medicine, and for them it is as if the innovation never took place,” Cassidy said during the hearing.

The hearing was held by the Senate Finance Committee, and members put myriad complaints front and center.

"The brakes have come off pharmaceutical pricing and American families are hurtling along in the passenger seat terrified about what comes next,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

Pharmaceutical company executives acknowledged that drug prices in the U.S. are some of the highest in the world, but they also urged Congress not to take steps that could stymie research and the development of new drugs.

"This vital work depends on having a U.S. market that is free, competitive and predictable. We must work together to solve the affordability challenge of today's patients without jeopardizing the hopes of those waiting for tomorrow's cures,” said Merck CEO Keith Frazier.

Locally, health care advocates said families are having to make tough decisions.

"As a community health advocate, we hear a lot from our patients of our primary care providers and from community members, and it's a life or death choice that they have to make between going to fill their prescription or paying rent,” said Tiffany Netters, Executive Director of 504 HealthNet.

Cassidy believes the hearing was productive.

"There’s an acknowledgment from people in Pharma that there’s a problem with people being able to afford their medicine, that’s a good thing because you can’t begin to remedy a problem until people admit there is one,” said Cassidy.

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