New Year’s Day price hikes on blockbuster drugs set the stage for a big debate

Allergan, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Biogen and other top drugmakers all celebrated the New Year’s with a traditional boost in the price of their top drugs. 

John Carroll at the US-China Biopharma Innovation and Investment Summit in Shanghai on October 23, 2018; Credit: Endpoints News, PharmCube

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

For Allergan, there was an across-the-board hike of 9.5% for 7 of its top 10 products. Biogen’s Tecfidera went up 6%, according to a roster of new drug prices assembled January 1 by Umer Raffat from Evercore ISI. Jardiance and Tradjenta at Eli Lilly went up 6% — after they triggered a 2% hike for Alimta just before New Year’s. And so on….

Welcome to the start of 2019, after only the briefest of holidays from the drug pricing debate in the US. Just before Christmas the controversy focused on Novartis and other giants who were leveraging up the price on top performers in the market. 

Right now, price hikes are a nail, and everyone in Washington DC is looking for a hammer. You can expect plenty of bruises and yelps of pain to come in the year ahead as those hammers fly.

It won’t matter how much protesting these big players do about protecting consumers from out-of-pocket costs. After the majors delayed their regular prices increases for a few months at the insistence of the president, the industry is in for more portfolio “adjustments.” Cue the presidential accusations and more ideas like tying Medicare prices to single-payer rates in Europe.

It is this rich topic for discussion we’ll be tackling on the first day at JPMorgan as we assemble some of the industry’s top experts on drug pricing to see where this debate is taking us in 2019. 

I’ll be up front and center with Peter Bach, an outspoken advocate for change at Memorial-Sloan Kettering, PhRMA chief Stephen Ubl, Christi Shaw, president of Lilly Bio-Medicines, Kathleen Tregoning, the EVP for external affairs at Sanofi and Jeff Marrazzo, the CEO of Spark who’s been spearheading the commercialization of the first gene therapy approved in the US. And we’ll be engaging in a Q&A with the audience. Here’s where you can buy a ticket to the event. 

Media is welcome to come along as our guest.

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