By Michael Erman and Carl O’Donnell
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc (N:), GlaxoSmithKline PLC (L:) and Sanofi SA (PA:) are planning to hike U.S. list prices on more than 200 drugs in the United States on Wednesday, according to drugmakers and data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.
Nearly all of the price increases will be below 10%, and around half of them are in the range of 4 to 6%, said 3 Axis co-founder Eric Pachman. The median price increase is around 5%, he said.
More price increases are expected to be announced later this week, which could affect the median and range.
Soaring U.S. prescription drug prices are expected to again be a central issue in the presidential election. President Donald Trump, who made bringing them down a core pledge of his 2016 campaign, is running for re-election in 2020.
Many branded drugmakers have pledged to keep their U.S. list price increases below 10% a year, under pressure from politicians and patients.
Drugmakers often negotiate rebates on their list prices in exchange for favorable treatment from healthcare payers. As a result, health insurers and patients rarely pay the full list price of a drug.
Pfizer will hike prices on more than 50 drugs, including its cancer treatment Ibrance, which is on track to bring in nearly $5 billion in revenue this year, and rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz.
Pfizer spokeswoman Amy Rose confirmed the company’s planned price increases. She said the company plans to increase the list prices on around 27% of its portfolio in the United States by an average of 5.6%.
Of the medicines with increases, she said 43% of them are sterile injectibles, and many of those increases are less than $1 per product.
GlaxoSmithKline said it will raise prices on more than 30 drugs. The company will raise prices on the blockbuster respiratory treatments it delivers through its Ellipta inhaler, its recently acquired cancer drug Zejula and on several products in its HIV-focused ViiV joint venture, according to 3 Axis Advisors. Price increases ranged between 1% and 5%.
Sanofi said it will raise prices on around 10 of its drugs, with hikes ranging between 1% and 5%. The drugmaker noted the increases are in line with its commitment to not raise prices above medical inflation.
Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:) Industries Ltd (TA:) raised prices on more than 15 drugs, in some cases by more than 6%, according to 3 Axis Advisors. A Teva spokesperson said the company regularly reviews prices in the context of market conditions, availability and cost of production.
3 Axis advises pharmacy industry groups on identifying inefficiencies in the U.S. drug supply chain and has provided consulting work to hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a prominent critic of high drug prices.
STAYING OUT OF THE CROSSHAIRS?
Ian Spatz, a senior adviser at consulting firm Manatt Health, said that drugmakers could be holding to relatively low price hikes in an attempt to stay out of politicians’ crosshairs. Trump, for instance, targeted Pfizer after a proposed round of price increases in 2018, saying in a tweet that the drugmaker “should be ashamed.”
“I’m sure many manufacturers are interested in making sure they are not called out on a large list price increase,” Spatz said.
The United States, which leaves drug pricing to market competition, has higher prices than in other countries where governments directly or indirectly control the costs, making it the world’s most lucrative market for manufacturers.
Trump, a Republican, has struggled to deliver on a pledge to lower drug prices before the November 2020 election. His administration recently proposed a rule to allow states to import prescription drugs from Canada.
The administration had previously scrapped an ambitious policy that would have required health insurers to pass billions of dollars in rebates they receive from drugmakers to Medicare patients.
The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, passed a bill earlier in December that would cap prices for the country’s most expensive drugs based on international prices and penalize drugmakers that do not negotiate with the Medicare insurance program for seniors. Trump has threatened to veto the bill, saying it would undermine access to lifesaving medicines.