Drugmakers kick off 2021 with 500 painful price hikes 

US pharmaceutical firms, hit hard by a Covid pandemic that has reduced demand for many treatments, are looking to recoup their losses as they also fight the introduction of new price-cutting rules 

by Michael Erman and Julie Steenhuysen
Drugmakers kick off 2021 with 500 painful price hikes 
Abbvie has raised prices on around 40 drugs including the world's top-selling drug, rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira. Photo: Reuters 

Drugmakers including Abbvie Inc and Bristol Myers Squibb have raised their 2021 prices on more than 500 drugs in the US, according to analysis by health care research firm 46brooklyn.

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

Among the increases are 300 price changes by companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.

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Nearly all the increases were below 10%, and the median hike was 4.8%, down slightly from last year, 46brooklyn reported. 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 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively. It hiked the price of blood thinner Eliquis by 6 per cent.

REBATES AND DISCOUNTS

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 creeping 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," said Eric Pachman, president of 46brooklyn. "With price increases losing their impact, launch prices will be the primary driver of US drug list price inflation."

  • Reuters

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Pharmaceuticals Drugs Abbvie Pfizer GlaxoSmithKline