AZ chief: Industry stats skewed by overstated U.S. prices

Pharma sales stats could be all wrong--at least that's what AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan (photo) told the Reuters Health Summit. List prices are just that, and real prices are somewhat lower. On Nexium, for instance, the quoted price may be $4, but the company gets only $2 to $3."Nobody pays retail," Brennan said.

For example, IMS Health, the market research firm, reported 2010 Nexium sales of $6 billion. In AstraZeneca's financial statements, the number is less than half that. "We reported just over $2 billion in sales and I can tell you that our number is correct," Brennan said.

The AZ chief also took issue with reported price increases. MarketScan reported that the company had hiked the price on its cholesterol drug Crestor by a "mid-teens" percentage. "You may see an 8 percent price increase on something but we may be discounting that for Medicaid by 10, 12, 15 percent or more," he said.

The upshot? U.S. drug prices are a murky business, and healthcare reform is making it even more murky, Brennan said. There's no "good transparency" on pricing in the States, he said. "You pay retail if you walk into a pharmacy with a prescription your doctor wrote you and stand there with a pile of $100 bills," he said, "but that's 1 percent of the population."

- read the Reuters story