Drug price hikes a tried-and-true strategy for who's who of Big Pharma

Pharma watchers know that price increases on drugs are a common occurrence. So why has it taken until now for one of pharma's go-to strategies to spark public outcry? For starters, neither doctors nor patients usually have a good sense of a drug's wholesale price, The Wall Street Journal notes. So while normally high prices curb demand, the fact that prescription drugs are ordered, used and paid for by three different parties "confuses incentives and dampens the normal economic dynamics," Sara Fisher Ellison, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, told the newspaper.

As lawmakers and presidential candidates continue their assault on the practice, though, people are paying more attention, and companies are finding themselves in the spotlight. Yesterday, we went through some of the 56 upward price moves Valeant has made so far this year; here are a few other companies that may find it increasingly difficult to fly under the radar with their price hikes.

  • Biogen's ($BIIB) Avonex has more than doubled its U.S. revenue in the last 10 years, the Journal notes--and that's despite decreasing demand through the period. The Boston-area biotech has raised its price on the multiple sclerosis standby 21 times, by an average of 16% per year through the decade. Biogen says its Avonex revenue has helped fund big advances in MS treatment. More

  • Wholesale prices for a year's supply of Novartis ($NVS) cancer-fighter Gleevec doubled at the end of last year, the WSJ points out, helping Novartis' stateside revenue from the med soar to $2.17 billion in 2014. Gleevec is "a life-changing medicine" whose "success is funding the next generation" innovations in the disease it treats, chronic myeloid leukemia, the company says. More

  • The sticker on Eli Lilly ($LLY) insulin Humalog increased twofold between 2010 and 2014, the WSJ reports, but thanks to serious rebates--averaging 56% of its list price last year--the drug's net price rose only 3%, a spokeswoman told the paper. More

  • The price of gout treatment colchicine in 2010 skyrocketed by 2000%, and critics have an FDA safety program to thank. The agency's plan to encourage testing of meds that have been around longer than it has--therefore never receiving formal approval--rewards companies that do the testing with licenses that temporarily give them monopoly pricing power, Bloomberg reports. And as FiercePharma has reported, colchicine is far from the only one. News | Analysis

  • According to investment research firm SSR, Pfizer's ($PFE) Lyrica kicked in $208 million in additional quarterly sales attributable solely to price hikes. That's over a three-year period in which its price jumped by 51.7%, Bloomberg reports. The pharma giant has raised prices on 133 of its brand-name products in the U.S. since 2015 began. More

  • Another one of those Pfizer products is Viagra, which padded its quarterly hauls with an extra $166 million from price hikes during a stretch that saw its price vault 72.1%, the news service notes. More

Special Reports: 10 big brands keep pumping out big bucks, with a little help from price hikes | The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013