Can Big Pharma's moneymakers stay hot as price hikes slow down?

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Leerink Partners Geoffrey Porges outlined drugs that could suffer from pricing pressure going forward. (Pixabay)

Big pharma companies have pushed through a range of price hikes in recent years, leading to political scrutiny that’s still playing out. In a new report, Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges details which “signature” products have grown the most through price hikes over the last three years, and which products might struggle going forward due to that very pricing pressure.

Out of a group of 45 top pharmaceutical products, price hikes contributed $14.3 billion—or 61%—of a cumulative $23.3 billion in U.S. sales growth from 2014 to 2017, according to the analyst. Porges pointed out that price hikes have slowed since the middle of 2017, and his team expects revenue growth from price hikes to slow further going forward. 

In particular, Porges highlighted AbbVie’s Humira, Amgen’s Neulasta and Enbrel, and Pfizer’s Lyrica among drugs at risk from the trends. The team looked at drugs from a who's who of pharma companies, including AbbVie, Amgen, Celgene, Merck, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson. Overall, price hikes kicked in 48% of $29.5 the group’s total growth for the 3-year period.  

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The team estimated that 43% of Humira’s U.S. revenue growth over the period came from price hikes. The figure was higher, even above 100%, for some drugs, including Amgen’s Neulasta and Enbrel, J&J’s Remicade and Lilly’s Alimta. Conversely, Merck products Keytruda, Gardasil and Januvia had U.S. revenue growth from price of either 1% or 0% for the period. 

Drugs from Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and Regeneron also didn’t grow significantly through price hikes, according to the analyst. Alexion’s Soliris, Regeneron’s Eylea and Merck’s Keytruda and Gardasil, which haven’t seen price hikes and grown due to demand, should be least affected from the new pricing pressure, Porges wrote. 

As industry watchers know, pharma’s pricing has faced growing scrutiny in recent years, and in May, the Trump Administration released its blueprint to tackle costs. The plan aims to boost negotiation and competition, plus lower out-of-pocket costs and provide incentives for lower list prices, among other goals. Outside of the federal government, many states are considering legislation to crack down on drug costs.

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