In the wake of the controversy around the price hike on Daraprim last fall, drug companies were quiet for awhile. But with the new year comes new increases. Pfizer, Amgen, Allergan, Horizon Pharma and others have raised U.S. prices for dozens of branded drugs since late December, with many of the increases between 9% and 10%, according to equity analysts. Vanda Pharmaceuticals joined the list of companies that shifted prices up even as criticism continues on the national level about pharma costs.
Pharma Drug Hikes Continue in the New Year
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, on January 1st Vanda Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its new drug, Hetlioz, which treats a sleep disorder in blind people, by 10%, to $148,000 a year. A Vanda spokeswoman responded to the hike said the cost of Hetlioz is still within the price range of treatments that address similar size populations, and noted that fewer than 1,000 patients currently take the drug in the U.S.
According to Rueters, Pfizer Inc, which announced a $160-billion merger with Ireland-based Allergan last year to slash its U.S. tax bill, raised U.S. prices for more than 100 of its drugs, some by as much as 20 percent.
Pfizer confirmed a 9.4 percent increase for heavily advertised pain drug Lyrica, which generated $2.3 billion in 2014 U.S. sales; a 12.9 percent increase for erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, which had 2014 U.S. sales of $1.1 billion; and a 5 percent increase for Ibrance, a novel breast cancer drug launched last year at a list price of $9,850 per month, or $118,200 per year.
In late December, Amgen raised the price of the anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel by 8%, according to Raymond James, following an 8% increase in September and a 10% increase last May. Enbrel costs about $704 a week for the typical dosing for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, according to CMS, or more than $36,600 a year. The new cost is now roughly four times of the drug’s cost when it was launched in the 1990s, said Raymond James analyst Christopher Raymond. An Amgen spokeswoman responded by saying the price of Enbrel reflects its clinical benefits, while helping fund “continued scientific innovation.”
Will 2016 bring regulation to drug pricing?
Currently in the US, there’s no mechanism for regulatory authorities to control drug prices. So as long as people are buying drugs, prices can keep rising. However, that might change depending on the winner of the 2016 elections. Along with health-care payers, doctors and patients, politicians have been criticizing drug pricing in recent months, saying medicines are out of reach for many patients. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio have attacked drug prices, and proposed various measures to rein them in.
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Lindsey McCoy MPA, is an Executive Medical Recruiter and former CEO in the not for profit sector.