Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Major drug-maker promises to limit price increases

Major drug-maker promises to limit price increases

In response to the heated political rhetoric over the cost of prescription drugs, Novartis has decided not to raise prices on its medicines in the USA for the rest of 2018.

"We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same", Trump said in a July 10 tweet. Trump has promised to lower drug prices since the campaign and as is his style, has resorted to calling out companies by name on Twitter after reports of price increases. "Right now, in a very dynamic environment in the United States ... we view it as the prudent course".

Pfizer then announced it would defer the increases no later than January 1, or when the administration's "blueprint" on drug prices takes effect, whichever comes first.

Trump has pressured drug companies to keep prices low, and met with Pfizer after it announced price increases for more than 100 drugs.

Pfizer agreed to postpone the second hike until the end of the year or until Trump's plan to lower drug prices goes into effect-whichever is sooner.

Last night also Merck & Co responded to the president's appeal. The company will drop the price of Zepatier, a Hepatitis C drug, by 60%, and decrease the costs of "several other" drugs by 10%.

While the administration is quick to commend Merck's decision and to file it away as a win for their initiative, Merck did not cut the prices of any of its big sellers, like the cancer treatment Keytruda or the diabetes drug Januvia.

It also said it would not increase the average net price of drugs in its portfolio by more than inflation annually.

Amid a shrinking patient pool and tough competition from companies like Gilead and AbbVie, Zepatier sales were down 65% in the last quarter, to $131 million.

"This decision is a response to President Trump's blueprint and reflects the industry's understanding that the President is serious about bringing change to our drug markets", U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar said in a statement that praises Merck's decision.

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