FiercePharmaPolitics—Pharma price hikes rang in 2020, but how will Washington respond?

US Capitol at night
Several hot political issues are dominating headlines in early 2020, so it remains to be seen what changes could come for pharma's pricing. (Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect how drugmakers operate. 

As lawmakers and government officials returned to Washington after the holidays, major drugmakers rolled out price increases, and more hit the news Monday. Cue the critics on Capitol Hill—and on the campaign trail.

But with impeachment proceedings sucking up oxygen in Congress and tensions in the Middle East dominating current headlines—not to mention garden-variety D.C. gridlock—one analyst doesn't expect much action on pricing this year. 

That would mark a win for drugmakers and their ability to price drugs freely in the U.S. On that note, top pharma companies continued their tradition of January price hikes, with hundreds coming in so far this year, GoodRx reports.

Among the companies to raise prices were AbbVie, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, Merck and Allergan. So far in January, drugmakers have raised list prices on more than 400 branded meds by an average of 5.1%.

So how will Washington respond? Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal doesn’t believe the year will bring much in the way of changes. In a Thursday note to clients, he wrote that we’ll see “minimal action on drug costs” this year and that market watchers will mostly be keeping an eye on the election and its implications throughout 2020. 

RELATED: Pfizer, BMS, Gilead, AbbVie and others hike prices on hundreds of meds to ring in 2020 

In an indication that the issue remains a priority, though, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is launching an attack ad about pharma companies in the wake of their recent price hikes. 

Outside of Washington, states are still taking the issue into their own hands. Maryland has established an independent pharmaceutical pricing board, which will investigate high prices and price hikes. The group set its first meeting for January 13, according to The Baltimore Sun.