Novartis, Merck and Allergan join Big Pharma's 2020 price-hike parade

Drug prices
More drug companies have raised prices to ring in 2020. (Getty/Charles Wollertz)

The first two days of the New Year ushered in hundreds of price hikes across the drug industry, and the tally has just kept growing. 

So far this month, 471 meds have bigger stickers now than they did a week ago, an update from GoodRx shows. On average, the increases came in at 5.1%. And as Reuters reports, Novartis, Merck & Co. and Allergan Friday joined the list of companies raising prices.

Novartis is marking up prices on about 7% of the products it sells in the U.S., a spokesperson told FiercePharma. Overall, the drugmaker expects U.S. net pricing—the amount it reaps after rebates and discounts—to decline by 2.5% during 2020.

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Merck is raising prices on about 15 medicines, Reuters reports. The hikes are within the company’s pledge to limit price hikes to U.S. inflation, a spokeswoman said. The drugmaker is "committed to working with policymakers and stakeholders at both the federal and local levels on solutions that will address patient out-of-pocket costs," she added.

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

For its part, Allergan is raising prices by 25 drugs by 5%—plus two others by 2% to 3%, a spokeswoman said. The drugmaker still expects net pricing to be flat or decline this year on higher rebates and discounts.

The Friday hikes by Allergan, Merck and Novartis followed similar moves by Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie, Gilead Sciences and others.

The most commonly prescribed drugs carrying higher prices include Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Eliquis, Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Jardiance, BI’s Tradjenta, Gilead’s Truvada and Pfizer’s Chantix, according to GoodRx.

All but a few of the price hikes are under 10%, a level famously set years back by Allergan CEO Brent Saunders in his pledge about pharma's "social contract." Some of them pushed right up to that threshold, though, with increases of 9.9%.

RELATED: Has the Saunders price-hike limit become a de facto pharma rule?

All of the increases apply to list prices, which are negotiated down by middlemen and payers. Patients typically don't pay list prices.

Still, the steady stream of price hikes has angered lawmakers, patients and public health advocates. Patients 4 Affordable Drugs Executive Director Ben Wakana said in a news statement that the pharma industry “can’t break its addiction to price increases.”

The hikes show the industry can’t be trusted to police itself, Wakana said, adding that it’s time for Congress to pass legislation to stop the industry’s “price gouging.”

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