J&J raises prices as Dems introduce bills aimed at lowering drug costs
- Johnson & Johnson has raised the price for nearly two dozen medicines, Reuters reports, falling in line with many of its pharma peers that typically institute price hikes near the start of each year.
- Reuters cited data from Rx Savings Solutions, which maintains a software system on prescription drug information, that found the J&J increases generally ranged between 6% to 7%. Prices for some of the big pharma's most lucrative products, such as blockbusters Stelara and Xarelto, were upped.
- Those hikes came the same day that Congressional Democrats announced three bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. One bill would hand the secretary of Health and Human Services negotiating power to lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. Another would allow for the importation of medicine from Canada and other "major" countries. The third would give the HHS secretary the ability to void government-granted exclusivities and offer non-exclusive licenses for drugs found to be "excessively" priced.
Industry and lawmakers have been at odds over drug pricing, a trend that looks to continue in 2019.
Though an at times contentious relationship between Pfizer and President Donald Trump did bring a temporary pause to some expected price hikes last summer, it appears the industry is back to business as usual. Among others, Allergan, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly each increased drug prices on Jan. 1.
Democrats, with new control of the House of Representatives, have appeared to make drug pricing reform one of their first goals.
"No more talk. No more tweets. The American people want action," said Sen. Bernie, I-Vt., in a Thursday statement. "They should not have to decide between paying their bills or paying for their prescriptions. We're a better country than that."
Sanders is sponsoring the three drug pricing bills introduced in the Senate on Thursday. On the House side, Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., are leading the charge.
Drug pricing reform has been one of the few areas to receive bipartisan support in Congress. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley said Wednesday that lowering prescription drug costs would be a main goal under his new position as Senate Finance Committee Chairman. Like Sanders, Grassley has his initial sights set on three bills targeting drug costs, including one that would allow for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
President Trump has also been an outspoken critic of pharma companies and their pricing practices. In October, his administration released a plan to link reimbursement for certain Medicare Part B drugs to the lower sums paid in some foreign countries.
Sanders and Trump disagree on many fronts, but it seems they do have common ground when it comes to U.S. prescription drug costs. One of the three bills he introduced in the Senate on Thursday would give the HHS secretary power to waive certain exclusivities or seek damages for medicines priced higher in the U.S. than their median price in five reference countries: Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K.
"The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. This has created a health care crisis in which 1 in 5 American adults cannot afford to get the medicine they need," Sanders said in his Jan. 10 statement.
Even with bipartisan support, Congress arguably hasn't been able to pass legislation with a meaningful impact on drug pricing. The threat of that changing still looms, but has not been enough to deter pharmas from price hikes, particularly because such moves have proven vital to the growth of many products.
J&J told Reuters the average list price increase on its drugs in 2019 will be 4.2%, and the company has no plan to institute any more price hikes this year.
The company did not return BioPharma Dive's request for comment by publication.
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