Pharma companies haven’t shied away from raising prices even in the midst of a global pandemic. And now that the world is slowly beginning to creep out of the crisis, this July doesn’t appear to be any different.
To kick off the month, a slate of drugmakers have already raised prices on 32 medicines by an average of 3.6%, GoodRx reports. It’s still early in the counting, and it’s likely that pharma is just getting started if previous trends are any indication.
The early start has consisted mostly of smaller drugmakers, in many cases dealing with rare disorders, such as Zogenix, Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Recordati Rare Diseases, Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, Azurity Pharmaceuticals and others.
Zogenix’s 9.5% increase for its rare childhood epilepsy drug Fintepla marks the largest hike so far. Fintepla became Zogenix’s first commercialized product nearly a year ago when it scored an FDA nod to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, entering the market with a $1,278 list price for a 30 mL bottle.
Then there’s Catalyst’s controversial drug Firdapse for patients with a rare neuromuscular disorder called LEMS. The company faced fierce backlash after launching the treatment at $375,000 per year, even though another company had been giving it away under the FDA's compassionate use.
Catalyst will increase Firdapse’s list price by 4.5%, GoodRx reports. Meanwhile, Rigel’s first and only FDA-approved drug Tavalisse, used to treat chronic immune thrombocytopenia, will see a 5% increase.
Some drugs on the list already grew in price earlier this year. For instance, Recordati had raised the price of Isturisa, approved to treat Cushing’s disease, by 9% in January. The company kicked off July with another 5% hike, GoodRx reports. Specialty pharma company TerSera Therapeutics upped its chronic pain drug Prialt another 4% after doing so in January.
In January, pharma hiked prices by an average of 4.5% on more than 800 drugs, according to GoodRx's tally. Pfizer accounted for a significant portion of them and has already kicked off this round with 1.5% bumps for acute myeloid leukemia drug Mylotarg and acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment Besponsa.
The increases come as the industry faces looming uncertainty over drug pricing reform in the U.S. While President Joe Biden has supported changes that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost drugs, among other measures, the president left drug pricing provisions out of his American Families Plan. That effectively moved the discussion over to a divided Congress, where pricing reforms have languished for years.
But reform chatter has recently resurfaced after the FDA’s controversial approval of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm. Some lawmakers are concerned that the treatment, priced at roughly $56,000 per year, could severely inflate Medicare’s spending by billions.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect changes in GoodRx's pricing figures.