Trump Nabs Win Over Pfizer But Other Companies Continue With Price Increases
Published: Jul 13, 2018 By Alex Keown
President Donald Trump was able to declare a small victory in the arena of drug pricing earlier this week when Pfizer opted to delay its second price-hike of the year following a call between Trump and Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Ian Read. Other companies though have not followed suit and have gone through with price increases for their drugs.
Celgene and Sanofi have increased prices on their drugs in recent days, as have several other companies. Bloomberg reported Thursday that during the first 10 days of July, 10 pharma and biotech companies increased the prices on 20 brand-name medications. Citing pricing data from Rx Savings Solutions and Bloomberg Intelligence, Bloomberg said that most of the increases were less than 10 percent – much like Pfizer’s – but noted that one sleep aid was raised by more than 700 percent. The drug with that significant hike is Aytu BioScience’s Zolpimist.
Celgene, as BioSpace reported earlier this week, increased the price of Revlimid and Pomalyst by 5 percent this month. Bloomberg’s data shows that Revlimid has seen multiple price hikes over the past 18 months. Since November 2016, the price of Revlimid has seen a total price increase of 25 percent from four separate hikes. The retail cost of the blockbuster cancer treatment (before insurance and other deductibles) is now $695.48, Bloomberg said.
Last month Celgene CEO Mark Alles posted a note on the company website that set fort its approach to price increases. Alles said any increase posted by Celgene “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 an increase in National Health Expenditures for the year.” For 2018, that rate is 5.3 percent, Alles wrote. However, Alles also noted that there could be “exceptional circumstances” that might force the company to increase a price beyond that threshold.
Pharma giant Roche also increased the price of some of its medications – even after it reversed a 4 percent hike on its anticlotting therapy Cathflo Activase. Roche raised the price of its breast cancer treatment Herceptin by 3 percent. It also increased the price of another cancer drug, Avastin, by 2.5 percent. Both drugs also saw price hikes in January, Bloomberg said.
Other price increases in July include a 7.9 percent hike by Novo Nordisk for Victoza; a 9.5 percent hike by Acorda Therapeutics for Ampyra; a 6 percent hike on Vesicare by Astellas Pharma; and a 7.5 percent increased on Ocaliva by Intercept Pharmaceuticals.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Acorda said the increase for its multiple sclerosis drug was due to the fact that the medication will lose patent protection at the end of the month. Tierney Saccavino, an executive vice president for Acorda, told Bloomberg that this will be the last price increase for the drug. Although there are challenges to the loss of patents, Saccavino told Bloomberg that even if the company wins the challenge against generic challengers and keeps them out of the market, “Acorda won’t raise prices again on Amprya through the end of 2019.”
The massive price hike of Aytu’s Zolpimist saw the cost of the drug rise from $40 to $329 for a 30-dose canister. The 40-dose canister rose from around $70 to $659, Bloomberg said. Even with the increase, the drug is still below the price points for popular sleep aid Ambien, Aytu CEO Josh Disbrow said. He told Bloomberg that Zolpimist was underpriced when Aytu acquired the drug in June.
“We looked at the competitive pricing and the pricing across the board,” Disbrow told Bloomberg. “This is very much a niche product. It’s not priced to compete with generic pills, it’s priced really as a premium product for people who want a more rapid way of getting to sleep.”