Pfizer de­lays price hikes; oth­ers don’t

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Bloomberg News

In the first 10 days of July, at least 10 drug­mak­ers raised prices on at least 20 brand-name medicines.

The White House suc­ceeded in per­suad­ing Pfizer Inc. to hold off on price in­creases it had planned for this month.

But the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant wasn’t the only drug com­pany seek­ing to charge more for its prod­ucts in re­cent days.

In the first 10 days of July, at least 10 other drug­mak­ers and biotech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies raised prices on at least 20 brand-name medicines, a re­view of pric­ing data from Rx Sav­ings Solutions and Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence shows.

Cel­gene Corp. raised the price of block­buster cancer drug Revlimid by 5 per­cent to $695.48 a cap­sule, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence and First Data­bank. Since Novem­ber 2016, the drug’s price has been raised by over 25 per­cent through four sep­a­rate in­creases.

The num­ber of price in­creases in a short pe­riod sug­gests that White House re­quests are likely to have lit­tle im­pact on drug prices in the long term, said Michael Rea, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Rx Sav­ings Solutions, which helps pa­tients find low-cost drugs.

“I ex­pect no last­ing im­pact from Pfizer’s agree­ment,” said Rea. While the drug­maker re­ceived blow­back be­cause of its promi­nence, other com­pa­nies “are happy to be fly­ing un­der the radar.”

In June, Cel­gene CEO Mark Alles vowed to limit price in­creases to once a year, cap­ping them at the pro­jected an­nual per­cent­age growth in U.S. med­i­cal spend­ing, which this year was fore­cast to be 5.3 per­cent. The lat­est in­creases are in line with that pledge.

Still, “any price in­crease in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment ap­pears bold,” es­pe­cially af­ter Pfizer’s show­down with Trump, Cowen & Co. an­a­lyst Phil Nadeau wrote Wed­nes­day.

Roche Hold­ing AG, which re­cently can­celed a planned 4 per­cent in­crease for an­ti­clot­ting drug Cath­flo Ac­ti­vase, raised prices on some of its costly top-sell­ing cancer drugs.

This month, it boosted the price of a sin­gle-use vial of breast-cancer drug Her­ceptin by 3 per­cent. Avastin, an­other cancer drug, went up 2.5 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence and First Data­bank. The changes fol­low in­creases for both drugs in Jan­uary.

In­sulin costs, a long­stand­ing pain point for di­a­betes pa­tients, have also risen this month. In early July, Novo Nordisk A/S raised the price of Levemir and No­volog by 5 per­cent, to $293.75 for a 10 mil­li­liter vial of Levemir and $289.36 for a 10 mil­li­liter vial of No­volog. Pa­tients can use more than one vial a month. The Dan­ish drug­maker also raised the price of its Vic­toza di­a­betes in­jec­tion by 7.9 per­cent.

“Our de­ci­sion to take a list price in­crease was not taken lightly,” said Ken In­chausti, a spokesman for Novo Nordisk.

By far the big­gest price in­crease this month — of more than 700 per­cent — came from tiny Aytu Bio­Science Inc., for an ob­scure sleep drug called Zolpimist. The new price of a 30-dose can­is­ter of the oral spray is $329.50, up from around $40. The price of a 60-dose can­is­ter rose to $659, up from around $70, the com­pany con­firmed.

SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IM­AGES

Af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pres­sured phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant Pfizer Inc. with a crit­i­cal tweet, Pfizer agreed to re­verse or post­pone drug price hikes. But that hasn’t stopped other drug­mak­ers.

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