Horizon's faced repeated price-hike criticism, but Vimovo just got its 11th raise—to almost $3,000

Horizon raised the price of Vimovo by 9.9% in February, a spokesperson confirmed, after repeated—and much critcized—price hikes in the past. (Image: Pixabay)

Recurring price hikes by pharma companies have caught plenty of criticism lately, but the attention isn't dissuading some industry players. This month, Horizon Pharma increased the price on Vimovo to $2,979 per 60-pill bottle, according to the Financial Times. 

February's hike is the 11th price increase on the med—a combo of Bayer's Aleve and AstraZeneca's Nexium—since it picked up U.S. rights from AstraZeneca in 2013, according to FT. 

Horizon paid $35 million up front for the rights and a minimum of $5 million in royalties in 2014 and $7.5 million each year after. Since the deal, Horizon has raised Vimovo's price from a starting point of $138, according to FT. The components are available over the counter and can cost under $40.

The FDA approved Vimovo in 2010 as a therapy to relieve symptoms for patients suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It's also approved for certain patients to decrease the risk of developing gastric ulcers.

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A Horizon spokesperson confirmed the 9.9% price hike on Thursday. But he said the average wholesale price is "not reflective of the cost to patients or the cost to the system." As a result of Horizon's access programs, he added, 98% of commercially-insured patients can get the drug at $10 or less out of pocket. 

Still, critics of pharma's price increases say patients end up paying through higher insurance expenses. 

Horizon was among a group of specialty pharmas to increase prices at the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018, as highlighted in a note early this year by Jefferies analysts. According to the analysts, the company increased its prices on Actimmune, Buphenyl, Procysbi and Ravicti by 9.9% effective on Dec. 29. 

An ultra-orphan med, Ravicti is among the world's most expensive drugs and costs $405,000 per year after discounts, a spokesperson previously told FiercePharma. He noted that fewer than 500 patients receive the drug annually.

The Vimovo hike comes after now-infamous price increases by Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharma on Daraprim, Mylan on EpiPen and Valeant on Isuprel and Nitropress, all which helped start an industry-wide firestorm on pricing in recent years. The attention has led to a tense debate in Washington, D.C. and around the country. Meanwhile, several states have passed laws aiming to take on drug prices through different approaches.

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It's not the first time Horizon's prices have grabbed headlines. Back in 2016, the Wall Street Journal profiled expensive combo drugs, with Horizon's Vimovo and Duexis making the list. In a report around the same time, Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin flagged the company—along with Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Concordia International—as drugmakers that have leaned the most on pricing for growth over the prior 5 years.

RELATED: Look out, Valeant, Horizon, et al.: Payers, patients target pricey meds that combo cheap generics

Last year, the company and its combo meds ran into resistance from Connecticut comptroller Kevin Lembo, who pushed to block coverage of "outrageously expensive specialty drugs" and called for an investigation into the company's relationship with two specialty pharmacies. Horizon has countered by saying that the meds' FDA labels indicate there are no substitutes.

The drugmaker is also part of an industrywide probe into pharma's ties with patient assistance charities, it disclosed in 2016.