Pfizer, Novartis, Amgen add to 2019 drug price hikes
- Three leading pharmaceutical companies boosted list prices this month on some of their most important drugs, the drugmakers confirmed to BioPharma Dive on Friday.
- Several weeks after many drugmakers instituted price increases on Jan. 1, Novartis, Amgen and Pfizer have joined in and hiked prices as well. Notably, Novartis upped the list price of both its psoriasis treatment Cosentyx and its heart failure drug Entresto by 9.9%. Amgen, meanwhile, boosted Enbrel's price by 6.2% last week, a company spokesperson confirmed.
- While Novartis and Amgen had not previously telegraphed their pricing plans, Pfizer disclosed last November it would raise prices on 41 drugs, most by 5%, beginning Jan. 15. Increases included a 9.4% bump to the price of Pfizer's key arthritis drug Xeljanz, and 5% each to Lyrica, Chantix and Viagra among others. The recent price actions taken by Novartis, Amgen and Pfizer were tracked via a database managed by 46brooklyn Research, a research firm.
Despite mounting public and political pressure on drug pricing, pharmas have largely executed a business-as-usual approach to list price hikes in the first weeks of 2019. Generally speaking, though, drugmakers appear to have taken a more selective approach, focusing on strategically important products rather than portfolio-wide pricing boosts.
A Pfizer spokesperson, for instance, noted in a statement to BioPharma Dive the company targeted 41 medicines this year — about 10% of its portfolio — compared to 87 medicines in 2018. The spokesperson declined to provide a list of the 41 affected drugs or the new list prices.
All three drugmakers said net prices across their entire U.S. drug portfolios are expected to remain flat or decline in 2019, due to increased rebates and discounts offsetting the recent list price increases.
"[A]ter the significant discounts and rebates paid to commercial and government payers, in 2019 our average list price change of 4.7% is expected to result in a net price decrease to us of almost 5%," a spokesperson for Novartis said in an emailed statement.
Amgen also said it expects a single digit decline in the net price across its business this year. Figures from 46brooklyn Research don't include rebates or discounts offered by drugmakers, and therefore don't reflect net prices.
Still, the price hikes are notable for the drugs which each company chose.
For Amgen, Enbrel (etanercept) is expected to post roughly $5 billion in U.S. sales for 2018, and about $4.7 billion in 2019, according to the investment bank Cowen & Co. The biotech is also awaiting a judge's ruling expected in early 2019 over Enbrel's patents in a legal battle with Novartis' Sandoz unit.
In addition to Cosentyx (secukinumab) and Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan), Novartis also raised the list price on Gilenya (fingolimod) by 4.5%. Those three medicines combined to earn Novartis nearly $4 billion in U.S. sales last year, Cowen estimates, a figure which is expected to grow to nearly $5 billion in 2019.
For Pfizer, Lyrica (pregabalin) is a multi-billion dollar blockbuster, while Xeljanz (tofacitinib) holds an important role in the big pharma's future.
Novartis, Amgen and Pfizer join many of their pharma peers in raising prices this year, despite taking action after the standard Jan. 1 date for most of the industry's price increases.
Allergan, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Biogen and Eli Lilly all raised prices on Jan. 1. A little more than a week later, Johnson & Johnson hiked prices on roughly 20 medications with most increases ranging between 6% and 7%.
And last November, Merck & Co. upped prices on five drugs, including its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Gardasil (HPV 9-valent vaccine, recombinant). Those two drugs alone netted $4.3 billion through the first nine months of 2018, more than one-third of Merck's entire U.S. pharmaceutical sales through that time range.
These actions have continued even as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has kept up public pressure on the industry over pricing.
The HHS head threatened "all options are on the table," including regulatory and legislative measures, to bring prices down. Already, the Trump administration has advanced two proposals antagonistic to the industry, but it remains to be seen what other measures the White House could take to further limit price increases.
Ned Pagliarulo contributed reporting.
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