Even though the Pharma companies vowed not to raise prices last year because Trump asked them not to, they have done it for this year and will probably continue doing it year after year like they always have.
Dozens of pharmaceutical companies began the new year by raising prices for hundreds of medicines, proving the administration’s naming and shaming of Big Pharma last year didn’t work.
Approximately 60 companies hiked prices during the first two days of January, according to a new analysis from Rx Saving Solutions and first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Some of the biggest increases hover around 10 percent, more than four times inflation. The United States already has some of the highest drug prices in the world, especially compared to countries where the government regulates or negotiates prices of new drugs.
The average increase was 6.3 percent. Here are some of 2019’s biggest hikes:
- 7T Pharma’s Zingo (to numb skin prior to drawing blood): 133.4 percent
- Hikma Pharmaceuticals’ Enalaprilat (to treat high blood pressure): 30.1 percent
- Hikma’s Ketamine (quick-acting anesthetic): 20 percent
- Hikma’s Morphine (injectable pain reliever): 10.2 percent
- Vertical Pharmaceuticals’ ConZip (to treat severe ongoing pain): 10 percent
- Allegran USA’s Bystolic (to treat high blood pressure): 9.5 percent
- Purdue’s OxyContin (highly addictive opioid): 9.5 percent
The increases affect the list prices of prescription drugs, so not what the majority of patients who have insurance actually pay at the pharmacy. List prices don’t reflect negotiations between drugmakers and insurance companies or the insurer middlemen (pharmacy benefits managers). Instead, they serve as a starting bid so companies are negotiating down from sky-high prices.
It’s also true that as drug prices rise, revenue for companies grows. A recent Leerink analysis between 2014 and 2017 found that price increases of 45 top drugs accounted for 60 percent of their sales growth in the U.S.
Tackling soaring drug prices has been a priority for the Trump administration and one it’s claimed victory over. Last year, Pfizer delayed hikes after Trump berated the company on Twitter. The company temporarily halted scheduled increases on 41 products over the summer after meeting with the administration. The company reportedly said it did so “to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access to patients.”
Last August, 100 days after the administration released its 44-page blueprint for drug pricing reform, the administration released another report, highlighting the fact that 15 pharmaceutical companies either pushed to reduce list prices, reversed planned price increases, or pledged to freeze prices for the rest of 2018. A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official told ThinkProgress the 15 companies were Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Gilead, Roche, Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Roche, Allergan, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer, Celgene, Eli Lilly, and Bausch.
Something to keep in mind for the new Congress being sworn in on Thursday is the public’s top ask of lawmakers is to lower drug prices. Eighty percent of respondents want Congress to prioritize lowering the costs of prescription drugs, per a new POLITICO/Harvard poll.
While many lawmakers have said they’ll focus on this issue, it’s hard to see what substantive bill passes with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate and White House. Big Pharma’s influence over leadership also threatens progress. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) received more than $2.3 million total in campaign contributions from drugmakers since the 2007-08 election cycle, according to Kaiser Health News.