Amid Biden admin's drug-pricing push, Big Pharma kicks off 2024 with hundreds of price hikes: report

While public and political scrutiny around drug pricing has reached a fever pitch in the wake of 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), that hasn’t stopped pharma majors from ringing in 2024 with their favorite New Year tradition: a hefty round of medication price hikes.

Altogether, companies such as Pfizer, Sanofi and Takeda are raising prices on more than 500 drug doses and formulations this month, Reuters first reported, citing data and analysis from research outfit 3 Axis Advisors and the related drug pricing non-profit 46brooklyn.

Taking different doses and formulations out of the mix, more than 140 medicine brands will see their prices increase in January, according to the news service. 

Once again, Pfizer stood out among its peers for January price hikes, with its increases accounting for more than a quarter of all medicines included in this round, Reuters pointed out. Specifically, Pfizer is bumping up the prices on 124 doses or formulations, plus another 22 from is sterile injectables arm Hospira.

Taking the various doses and formulations out of the equation, Pfizer and Hospira will raise the prices of 30 and six branded drugs, respectively, according to the report.

Coming in second is Takeda’s Baxalta, which is planning the second-highest number of price increases at 53, followed by UCB Pharma, which is increasing costs on 40 products.

After discounting different doses and formulations, Baxalta is hiking the prices on eight branded drugs compared to UCB’s six.

Sanofi is getting in on the action, too, with plans to increase the cost of its typhoid fever, rabies and yellow fever vaccines by 9% in January, Reuters added.

Last year, drugmakers raised the prices of 1,425 drugs, slightly less than in 2022, when 1,460 drugs received price hikes, the news outlet said, citing data published by 46brooklyn.

Median price increases have stayed around 5% since 2019, the drug pricing firm added.

Meanwhile, not all medicines are getting higher prices this year. GSK, for instance, plans to cut costs on some asthma, herpes and anti-epileptic drugs in 2024, a spokesperson told Reuters. GSK and two other companies are expected to lower prices on at least 15 medications in January, according to 3 Axis. 

January’s clutch of price hikes isn’t likely to surprise industry watchers, who know that drugmakers routinely use the first day of the year, and sometimes July 1, to raise their list prices. Meanwhile, more price hikes are likely to be announced over the course of January, which is typically the most popular month for the move.

The first round of price increases comes as Washington, D.C., officials and lawmakers work clamp down on high drug costs in the United States. Aside from giving Medicare the power to negotiate certain drug costs starting in 2026, the IRA aims to limit price hikes to the rate of inflation—a policy set to take effect early this year.

Back in mid-December, the White House flagged 48 Medicare Part B drugs that saw their prices grow faster than the rate of inflation in the final quarter of 2023. Starting in January, some Medicare patients who receive the 48 selected drugs—which include medications to treat cancer and fight infections—could have lower coinsurance than what they would have paid otherwise, the White House added last month.