Pfizer preps a laundry list of drug price hikes for the New Year — let the political fireworks begin

Pfizer is billing this as a restrained and completely reasonable move, but the pharma giant has just thrown down a gauntlet begging President Donald Trump to pick it up.

Bioregnum Opinion Column by John Carroll

On Friday afternoon the pharma giant $PFE put out a statement saying that it’s holding the price line on 90% of its drug portfolio come the New Year. But 41 of its drugs have been picked for a price hike on January 15, averaging 5%. And one of those drugs, which Pfizer said has just been approved for 2 new indications after extensive R&D work, is in line for a 9% hike.

Two years ago, that news would have been greeted as a sign of remarkable moderation. But for early 2019, after Trump has repeatedly excoriated the majors for “getting away with murder” on drug prices, it’s likely going to be seen as a call to legislative arms.

Just before the elections Trump suggested that Medicare Part B move to import overseas drug prices, hoping to persuade companies to muscle single payer systems to pay more while lowering the cost of therapies in the US. Earlier, Trump also made a high profile call to Pfizer CEO Ian Read — one of the most resistant to reining in price hikes — persuading him to put a planned slate of price increases on the back burner, at least through the end of the year. Other big players also quickly followed suit, though Pfizer recently indicated that they were moving back to business as usual come 2019.

Pfizer is also promising that consumers shouldn’t feel much financial heat. Their statement:

These list price increases are expected to be offset by higher rebates and discounts paid to Insurance Companies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers and the net effect on revenue growth in the U.S. in 2019 is expected to be zero. Given the higher rebates and discounts, we expect that the healthcare system will share those benefits with patients so they do not experience higher costs for their medicines. In 2018 the net impact of price increases on revenue growth is projected to be a negative 1 percent in the U.S compared with 2017.

That’s unlikely to satisfy the current resident in the White House, who is likely to view the move as a personal provocation.

The Dems, who may wind up as the strangest bedfellows of the Trump administration on this issue, seem to see some opportunities here as well.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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