Pfizer, Gilead and others ignore complaints, raise prices in Q1: WSJ

Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant ($VRX) may have touched off a public and congressional firestorm over drug pricing last fall, but drugmakers haven't given up the tactic. Despite all of the conversation on the topic, a Wall Street Journal analysis has found that many of the world’s biggest pharma companies continued to utilize price increases to boost sales into this year.

Pfizer ($PFE), Biogen ($BIIB), Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Amgen ($AMGN) and AbbVie ($ABBV) all benefitted from higher prices on big-selling meds in the first quarter, WSJ said, along with greater prescription volume in some cases. Amgen raised the U.S. list price of its Enbrel by 28% in 2015 and another 9.9% this month, while AbbVie raised Humira’s price 18% last year, WSJ said, citing an analyst report and AbbVie filings.

Price increases were so widespread in the first quarter that WSJ found more than two-thirds of the 20 largest biopharma companies used the maneuver to grow sales. That’s in spite of several federal investigations into drug pricing, a spate of state efforts to rein in prices and a national conversation on drug prices that has weighed on pharma and biotech stocks since last year. But talk hasn’t turned into action, as Congress has so far not demonstrated an interest in taking up the issue, WSJ points out.

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It’s the latest in a long line of reports on price increases since Turing Pharmaceuticals’ now-notorious 5,000% Daraprim price hike last September. Last month, Mylan ($MYL) was named in an analyst report for raising the prices of 24 drugs by more than 20%; Wells Fargo's David Maris called the changes “beacons for scrutiny” given the climate. To ring in the new year, Pfizer raised the prices on dozens of meds, by 10.6% on average.

But the trend may be slowing, as Deutsche Bank analysts said in May that drug price increases had been slower than in 2015. The group said average price jumps were 5% through April 2016 versus 7.8% for the same period in 2015.

- here’s the WSJ story

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