Never mind last week's hikes. Pharma still puts pricing at the top of its worry list: report

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More than half of pharma respondents in a GlobalData survey said pricing is their top concern this year. (Pixabay)

It may not seem as if pharma companies are biting their nails over drug prices. After all, a cohort of drugmakers made headlines last week with an annual round of January hikes. But the issue is on the top of industry worries for 2019, a new report finds.

Slightly more than half of respondents to a GlobalData survey tagged pricing and reimbursement as their biggest worry this year, the analytics firm said. As that pricing pressure rolls on, GlobalData analysts also expect "aggressive negotiation tactics to drive down drug prices."

The survey results come as the biopharma industry flocks to the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the industry's largest confab, for meetings and investor presentations. A couple of Big Pharma M&A deals announced in recent days—Bristol-Myers Squibb's mammoth Celgene buyout and Eli Lilly's newly inked deal for Loxo Oncology—have set attendees abuzz, but pricing is expected to gin up conversation, too.

Considering the Trump administration’s price-fighting efforts and ongoing chatter over drug prices, GlobalData pharma head Bonnie Bain, Ph.D., said in a statement that the survey results aren't surprising.  But by raising prices to ring in the year, drugmakers may have given lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reason to team up, even in this highly polarized political environment. The hikes could well offer an “opportunity for bipartisanship to bring the cost of prescription drugs down" this year, Bain noted.

Last week, several large drugmakers including Allergan, Biogen and Bristol-Myers Squibb raised sticker prices on some big-selling products. According to Rx Savings Solutions CEO Michael Rea, Pharm.D., dozens of drug companies raised prices on hundreds of medicines since the start of the year.

RELATED: Pharma raises prices to ring in 2019. Will it trigger action in Washington?

Those increases follow last year's efforts by the Trump administration to lower prices, including a push at HHS to lower costs in Medicare and the FDA's work to boost competition. With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives this week, more pricing talk could soon come to Congress.

Other threats to the industry—in respondents’ views—are Brexit and U.S. political uncertainty, at 11% each, according to GlobalData. The group sees China, vertical integration and biologics patent expirations as leading opportunities for the industry.