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Pharmaceutical Exec for Maker of $150,000-Per-Year Cancer Drug Blasted After Saying Company Pricing Is 'Very Responsible

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Pushing back against questions about the company's recent earnings amidst a growing debate over drug-price reform in Washington state, a top executive for pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson called the company's drug pricing "very responsible."

One participant during a conference call in October asked Johnson & Johnson CFO Dominic Caruso if the pharmaceutical giant would pledge to not raise drug prices beyond the cost of inflation, but the executive did not seem willing to make that promise, according to The Intercept.

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"Despite significant media attention on drug pricing, there really isn’t a consensus on policy solutions that would lower prices without negatively lowering innovation,” Caruso said.

Additionally, Caruso told the caller that the best way to address rising costs is to "monitor and provide outcome-based metrics and not simply focus only on price."

It was toward the end of the call, however, that Caruso made his most controversial statements, telling questioners that, instead of discussing suppressing drug costs, he would rather focus on justifying the company's current drug prices.

"I think, we’re very responsible in our drug pricing. And we tend to support the price of our drugs with strong economic data," Caruso said. "So rather than pledge to a particular number, I think it’s important that we continue to develop robust data that provides a solid foundation for the value that our products provide the health care system."

Those comments sparked immediate frustrations due to the fact that Johnson & Johnson has gained notoriety for its high drug costs. Currently, the pharmaceutical company is producing and marketing a cancer drug called Imbruvica, which costs roughly $9,550 for one bottle of 90 pills.

Imbruvica's dosage calls for four capsules per day, meaning one bottle lasts about a 22 days. In total, a year-long supply of the drug would cost approximately $154,922. Another drug Johnson & Johnson markets, used to treat Hepatitis C, sells for a little more than $22,000 for a month's supply, equaling $264,000 for a one-year supply.

"Johnson & Johnson's justification for their prescription drug prices are outrageous," Vijay Das, a health care advocate at Public Citizen, told The Intercept in response to Carusos' conference call comments. "Sick patients and taxpayers are held hostage in order for the drug maker to extract extreme profits."

Listen to Carusos' remarks during the conference call:

(H/T: The Intercept)

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