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Powerful Senate committee invites pharma executives to testify

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FILE PHOTO: A trader works by the post that trades AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

FILE PHOTO: A trader works by the post that trades AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange March 5, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A powerful U.S. Senate committee on Monday invited seven pharmaceutical companies to testify at a hearing later this month examining rising prescription drug prices.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member of the committee, invited executives from AbbVie Inc, AstraZeneca PLC, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co Inc, Pfizer Inc and Sanofi SA.

The U.S. Congress has been intensifying scrutiny of the pharmaceutical industry as rising prescription drug prices consistently poll as a top voter concern. It is also a priority for the administration of President Donald Trump, who made it a central issue of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Senate Finance Committee held its first hearing on drug prices in January, when Grassley and Wyden noted that several drug companies declined an invitation to testify. Some of the companies were re-invited on Monday, though the senators did not specify which ones.

The Senate is controlled by Republicans and the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats.

The invitation follows a slew of actions by lawmakers to heighten scrutiny of the pharmaceutical industry. The House Oversight Committee also held a drug pricing hearing in January, and a handful of House Democrats have sent letters to drug companies asking for information on their pricing practices.

(Reporting by Eric Beech and Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by David Alexander and Rosalba O'Brien)