January 5, 2021

Drugmakers kick off 2021 with 500 U.S. price hikes

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Drugmakers including Abbvie Inc and Bristol Myers Squibb raised U.S. list prices on more than 500 drugs to kick off 2021, according to an analysis by health care research firm 46brooklyn.

The hikes come as drugmakers are reeling from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reduced doctor visits and demand for some drugs. They are also fighting new drug price-cutting rules from the Trump administration, which would reduce the industry’s profitability.

They include more than 300 price increases from companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline reported by Reuters late last week.

Nearly all the increases were below 10%, and the median hike was 4.8%, down slightly from last year, 46brooklyn said. The firm’s analysis is based on data from Elsevier’s Gold Standard Drug Database.

Abbvie raised prices on around 40 drugs including a 7.4% hike on rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira, the world’s top-selling drug. Revenue from Humira is expected to top $20 billion next year.

Bristol Myers hiked prices on around a dozen drugs, including cancer drugs Revlimid and Opdivo by 4.5 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. It hiked the price of blood thinner Eliquis by 6 percent.

It said in a statement that it only raised prices on drugs with ongoing clinical research. It expects net prices, which include rebates and other discounts, to fall this year.

Drug price increases have slowed substantially since 2015, both in terms of the size of the hikes and the number of drugs affected.

However, 46brooklyn said its analysis of Medicaid data shows the average cost per branded drug is still ticking up.

“Over time, we end up cycling out cheaper brands designed to treat large populations, and replacing them with expensive brands designed to treat smaller populations,” wrote Eric Pachman, president of 46brooklyn. “With price increases losing their impact, launch prices will be the primary driver of U.S. drug list price inflation.”

By Michael Erman

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