Roche has taken the Trump pledge, joining Pfizer, Novartis and Merck in promising to hold the line on drug prices

You can add yet another Big Pharma to the growing list of giants swearing off US price hikes.

Roche tells me this morning that they told HHS on July 11 — the day after Pfizer CEO Ian Read agreed to roll back a price hike in a call with the president — that “we will not be taking any price increases for the remainder of the year.”

Roche’s move comes as Pfizer, Novartis and Merck have all pledged to hold the line on drug prices for the rest of the year — which comes amid considerable skepticism over just how meaningful this is. And Reuters is reporting that Bayer and Merck KGaA are also falling into line.

Roche, though, almost immediately was called out for freezing prices after they had already completed two rounds of price hikes this year. Bloomberg reports that the pharma giant raised prices on its big three cancer drugs — Avastin, Perception and Rituxan — and others just days ago, following increases in January.

Based on previous years, Roche may well have been finished raising prices anyway.

The move will surely lead to plenty of new hoots from critics, who have been calling out Merck for slashing the price of a hep C therapy that was all but dead anyway, along with other drugs that had lost patent protection.

Impactful or not, from the perspective of the Trump administration, this is another big win. The optics on these price freezes are just what Donald Trump was looking for when he called up Pfizer CEO Ian Read following the company’s move to raise prices on dozens of products.

Now it looks like we’ll soon have a majority of the top 10 promising to hold the line, at least for the rest of this year.

Here’s the rest of the statement from Roche:

We take decisions related to the prices of our medicines very seriously and our commitment to patient access and investment in future breakthroughs are reflected in our actions. This applies to the way we price new medicines and how we change the price of those medicines over time.

For example, our last seven new medicines were priced less than other approved medicines used to treat a similar disease. We recently priced Ocrevus, an innovative treatment for multiple sclerosis, 25% lower than the medicine it surpassed in clinical trials, and Hemlibra at less than half the cost of the standard treatment for hemophilia A with inhibitors.

Also, over the past several years, Genentech’s annual average net price increase, weighted by sales, was approximately 3% – in line with the medical consumer price index (CPI).

But for patients and the healthcare system to benefit fully from responsible pricing actions, we must also focus on implementing long-term, system-wide solutions that lower costs, while sustaining scientific innovation and access to life-changing medicines.

To that end, we are engaging with HHS and others to propose and discuss ideas and recommendations that can bring about positive, lasting change. These include enabling the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to benefit more directly from private sector competition for Part B medicines; reforming the 340B program; and implementing novel pricing and reimbursement models.

We’re committed to being part of the solution and look forward to continuing these discussions.

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

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