- As some major drugmakers signal plans to begin hiking drug prices again after a year filled with intense public scrutiny, the head of the biotech industry's largest trade group argued more companies should stop taking price increases.
- John Maraganore, chair of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, said in an interview with BioPharma Dive he doesn't think two recent Trump administration drug pricing proposals will succeed and would be "very deleterious" if enacted. But he also urged drugmakers to play a larger role in making medications affordable for Americans.
- "On the other hand, the industry can do better, and Alnylam has stood uniquely to look at things like drug price increases and say 'no, we aren't going to do drug price increases,'" said Maraganore, who is also CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. "I think there ought to be more of that from the industry. We as an industry have to be part of the solution."
The BIO leader's comments come as January approaches, when pharmas and biotechs historically have boosted drug prices for the new year, a practice that has become a fundamental piece of many drugmakers' business.
Price hikes made up about 60% of sales growth among the industry's top-selling drugs between 2014 and 2017, one recent analysis by the investment bank Leerink found, for example.
While boosting list prices has long been standard for the industry, 2018 brought some newfound hesitancy, in no small due to a president who has publicly criticized large companies like Pfizer over such raises.
In a seeming response, a handful of pharmas this summer rolled out pledges to pause or refrain from planned price increases in the second half of 2018. However, at least two have indicated that promise won't necessarily hold come January.
As Pfizer CEO Ian Read said in October, his pharmaceutical giant will resume "business as normal" on pricing. The next month, the company said it would raise prices on 41 drugs in January.
Alnylam has one marketed product, and it's a pricey one at that. Onpattro (patisiran), approved this year after more than a decade of research, carries an annual list price of $450,000 for a typical patient, which one watchdog group judged to be overpriced. While the drug is intended for a small patient population, its cost puts it among the ranks of the most expensive products in the industry.
Maraganore has previously stated that Alnylam would limit price increases on its products to stay in line with overall inflation. The company confirmed in a statement to BioPharma Dive that approach still holds.
Yet the CEO said the industry's pricing problem is not going away, and argued the sector should play a role in working toward solutions.
Of course, he also stuck to the industry line that pricing controls would endanger the type of biomedical innovation that's produced drugs like Onpattro.
"You think about the U.S. system for pharmaceutical innovation, we are log years away from any other country in the world," he said, "and we want to preserve that in this country."
He also expressed doubt on two recent Trump administration proposals that would require drugmakers to list prices in TV advertisements and would link Medicare payment on certain drugs to what some foreign countries pay.
"I do think policies like [those two] are actually very deleterious potentially if they get embraced and enacted," Maraganore said."I don't think they will succeed, but those two in particular are ones that are not good."