Roche, Merck, Novartis and others hike prices on 83 meds starting in July: analyst

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Large drugmakers have raised prices on at least 83 meds so far in July, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote. (Pixabay)

It’s not uncommon for drugmakers to raise prices on big-selling meds to start each year and at each year's halfway point. So as the calendar turned to July, many companies marked the occasion with price increases in an indication that political pressure against pharma's price hikes may be waning.

So far in July, drugmakers including AbbVie, Roche’s Genentech, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have raised prices on at least 83 medicines, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote in a note. He cited MediSpan PriceRx data in his reporting and only tracked price hikes from a group of big and specialty pharma companies. The figure compares with eight price hikes for the same group last year. 

Market watchers may remember Pfizer’s mid-year price hikes in 2018 that caused a headache for the industry. After the company raised dozens of prices, President Donald Trump tweeted that the pharma giant and others “should be ashamed” of their moves. After a call between Pfizer’s then-CEO Ian Read, Trump and HHS secretary Alex Azar, the company agreed to defer the increases.

Now, price hikes seem to be attracting less attention, Maris wrote.

“To us it appears now that the criticism from politicians and the president has quieted down, companies are more aggressively and broadly pursuing drug price increases again,” he wrote. “We are not so confident that the lull in criticism will continue and could foresee more negative headlines in the coming months."

In July, Novartis’ Sandoz raised prices on six products by 9.9%; AbbVie raised prices on blood cancer treatment Venclexta by 5%; Genentech raised prices on a range of products by 1.5% to 3%; Amneal instituted its own set of 9.9% price hikes; Eli Lilly raised prices for cancer drugs Cyramza, Alimta and Erbitux by 2.5%; and Merck raised prices on HIV therapy Insentress by 5%. 

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The July increases followed 35 in June among the group, Maris wrote. Those increases ranged from 1.5% to 909% from Teva, which hiked the price on its Desmopressin Acetate Injection Solution. In a follow-up note, Maris wrote that Teva stopped selling the drug in 2012, and relaunched last month at what it thought was an appropriate price.

Pharma’s practice of routinely raising its prices has generated intense pushback in recent years, and the Trump Administration has been working to fight high prices as Congress mulls its own measures. The administration originally forced drug prices into TV ads, but a federal judge recently struck down the rule. The administration is also working to tweak drug rebating, among other proposals.

RELATED: Federal judge blocks HHS rule requiring list prices in drug TV ads 

Amid administration and Congressional efforts, prices continue to climb. In addition to the mid-year increases, drugmakers instituted a range of price hikes to start the year.

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