Drugmakers Begin New Year by Raising Prices

By | January 2, 2020

Drugmakers including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Gilead Sciences Inc., and Biogen Inc. hiked U.S. list prices on more than 50 drugs on Wednesday, bringing total New Year’s Day drug price increases to more than 250, according to data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that drugmakers including Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Sanofi SA were planning to increase prices on more than 200 drugs in the United States on Jan. 1.

Nearly all of the price increases are below 10% and the median price increase is around 5%, according to 3 Axis.

More early year price increases could still be announced.

Soaring U.S. prescription drug prices are expected to again be a central issue in the presidential election. President Donald Trump, who made bringing them down a core pledge of his 2016 campaign, is running for re-election in 2020.

Many branded drugmakers have pledged to keep their U.S. list price increases below 10% a year, under pressure from politicians and patients.

The United States, which leaves drug pricing to market competition, has higher prices than in other countries where governments directly or indirectly control the costs, making it the world’s most lucrative market for manufacturers.

Drugmakers often negotiate rebates on their list prices in exchange for favorable treatment from healthcare payers. As a result, health insurers and patients rarely pay the full list price of a drug.

Bristol-Myers said in a statement it will not raise list prices on its drugs by more than 6% this year.

The drugmaker raised the price on 10 drugs on Wednesday, including 1.5% price hikes on cancer immunotherapies Opdivo and Yervoy and a 6% increase on its blood thinner Eliquis, all of which bring in billions of dollars in revenue annually.

It also raised the price on Celgene’s flagship multiple myeloma drug, Revlimid, 6%. Bristol acquired rival Celgene in a $74 billion deal last year.

Gilead raised prices on more than 15 drugs including HIV treatments Biktarvy and Truvada less than 5%, according to 3 Axis.

Biogen price increases included a 6% price hike on multiple sclerosis treatment Tecfidera, according to 3 Axis.

Gilead and Biogen could not be immediately reached for comment.

3 Axis advises pharmacy industry groups on identifying inefficiencies in the U.S. drug supply chain and has provided consulting work to hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a prominent critic of high drug prices.

(Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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