Sanofi and Roche Take Trump’s No-Drug-Price-Increase Pledge, at Least for Now


It was reported today that U.S.-based Merck & Co will lower the price of some of its drug, at least partly in response to President Donald Trump’s recent attack on Pfizer over drug pricing. It appears to be rippling through the industry, largely in an attempt to stay out of the way of Trump’s attack-tweets, although the extent to which they are temporary token pledges remains to be seen. At least two companies, Roche and Sanofi, indicate they are not raising their drug prices in the U.S. this year.

Last week, after Pfizer announced it was raising the price of 40 prescription drugs, President Trump apparently discussed the issue with Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Ian Read, who then walked back the price increase. At that time Trump tweeted, “Pfizer is rolling back price hikes, so American patients don’t pay more. We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same. Great news for the American people.”

Pfizer issued a press release stating that it was putting off the price increase to “give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access to patients.”

Shortly afterward, Pfizer delayed a second price hike of the year, conceding to Trump’s bullying or persuasion, depending on your point of view. BioSpace reported that Celgene and Sanofi had increased their drug prices recently, along with several other companies. On Thursday, July 12, Bloomberg reported that in the first 10 days of July, 10 biopharma companies increased the prices of 20 brand-name drugs. Most of the releases, per data from Rx Savings Solutions and Bloomberg Intelligence, were less than 10 percent, although Aytu BioScience’s Zolpimist was increased more than 700 percent.

Celgene raised the price of Revlimid and Pomalyst by five percent in July. In the last year and a half, Celgene has increased the price of Revlimid several times, giving it a total price increase of 25 percent over four different price increases. According to Bloomberg, the retail price of this drug before insurance and other rebates is now $695.48, a veritable bargain compared to the price of immuno-therapeutics. For example, Merck’s Keytruda can run $150,000 for a full-year treatment.

Celgene in June stated on its website that any increase by the company “will be limited to no more than once a year and at a level no greater than the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected to increase in National Health Expenditures for the year.” For this year, that rate is 5.3 percent.

Roche, Sanofi and Merck KGaA, all European-based companies, say they have no plans to raise their drug prices this year in the U.S. Roche also indicated it had informed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on July 11 about that decision. Novartis has also agreed to delay price hikes, and U.S.-based Merck & Co. (different than Germany’s Merck KGaA) indicates it plans to cut prices of some of its drugs. Merck and Co. said it would lower the cost of one drug, hepatitis C drug Zepatier, by 60 percent and others by 10 percent. None are blockbuster drugs or significant revenue drivers. In fact, Zepatier brought in $131 million in the first quarter of 2018, down 65 percent from the same period in 2017, and recorded no U.S. sales after rebate payments to insurers.

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