Viagra, Lyrica among 91 meds to get June price hikes at Pfizer: FT

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Pfizer raised prices on a group of 91 drugs, including Lyrica and Viagra, in June.

Defying industrywide pricing criticism, Pfizer has raised the U.S. prices on 91 medicines by an average of 20% so far this year, according to the Financial Times. The hikes come as a debate wages on over the industry’s tactics and as Congress has yet to take action on the issue.

Among the Pfizer meds to get a price increase in June were erectile dysfunction drug Viagra—which jumped 27.5% so far this year after hikes in January and June—and nerve pain med Lyrica, a top seller for the New York drug giant, according to FT.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company "has always priced responsibly," adding that "innovative medicines are one of the most valuable and cost effective segments of healthcare spend and are an important part of the solution to growing healthcare costs." The drugmaker's average prices after discounts have increased by 4% this year, he pointed out.

"We also have very comprehensive and extensive access programs for those that cannot afford or do not have good insurance," Pfizer's spokesperson told FiercePharma.

It’s not the first time Pfizer has raised the price on a group of drugs despite public scrutiny on drug prices. Early last year, as a pricing firestorm was picking up, Pfizer raised the prices on dozens of medications by an average of 10.6%, according to Deutsche Bank analysts.

Related: New FDA commissioner Gottlieb unveils price-fighting strategies

The newest round of hikes come as attention to the issue has only mounted further after former Turing Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli jacked up an old toxoplasmosis drug by 5,000% overnight in 2015. Since that move, controversy after controversy has kept public attention on the issue, and many large drugmakers have pledged to limit their hikes.

Pfizer is not among that group that includes Takeda, AbbVie, Allergan, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Others top drugmakers such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson have released high-level “transparency reports” showing the growing rebates and discounts to industry middlemen that are taking a bite out of pharma sales.

During his transition period, then President-elect Donald Trump said pharma was “getting away with murder,” promising to bring healthcare costs down through increased competition. More recently, his FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has touted a few strategies to bring generics to market faster.

Related: Pfizer CEO: Trump's wrong on pharma. 'Ethical' companies nothing like Shkreli or Valeant

Defending his industry against that harsh criticism, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said back in January that research-based drug companies are nothing like some players in the industry that have tarnished its image. “Ethical” companies, he said, price responsibly and seek to recoup R&D costs.

Read also had a disagreement on pricing with Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer at a panel discussion in December. During the talk, Schleifer said the industry has "used price increases to cover up the gaps in innovation,” to which Read responded that different pricing models work for different companies. The proportion of healthcare costs spent on meds has "not changed in two decades," Read said.

Lyrica pulled in $4.16 billion for Pfizer last year around the world. The drug was first approved by the U.S. FDA in 2004 and is expected to lose exclusivity in 2019, according to Bernstein.

Related: Top 10 U.S. patent losses of 2017

Viagra’s price hike comes during the last few months of exclusivity on the legendary med, as agreements with Teva and Mylan—made back in 2013 and 2015—paved the way for generics this December. The blue pill is among the top patent expirations in the drug industry this year.