Big pharma pursues mid-year cost hikes as Trump officials tout drug pricing efforts

By Health CareFOXBusiness

HHS Secretary Alex Azar: We are getting drug prices down

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on the request to Congress for funds to help with the humanitarian crisis on the U.S. border with Mexico and the administration's efforts to reduce health care costs.

True to form, U.S. pharmaceutical companies are moving forward with mid-year price hikes despite an intense focus by the Trump administration and Congress on lowering treatment costs.

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Drugmakers tend to hike prices on their prescription medications in January and early July. This year, however, the increases were less extreme as scrutiny of the industry grows.

In the first quarter, for example, list prices rose 3.3 percent, a decline from 6.3 percent last year, according to SSR Health LLC. Overall, 20 companies moved forward with an average 13.1 percent price hike on over 40 products, per data from Rx Savings Solution.

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GlaxoSmithKline, for example, increased the cost of cancer medicine Zejula by 5 percent to $6,913 for a one-month supply. Amneal Pharmaceuticals also pushed up the price of thyroid treatment Unithroid by roughly 10 percent.

TickerSecurityLastChange%Chg
GSKGLAXOSMITHKLINE PLC41.11-0.07-0.17%
AMRXAMNEAL PHARMACEUTICALS INC3.42+0.15+4.59%

Despite the increases, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, top Trump officials are touting the administration’s work on curbing drug prices.

In a Monday op-ed, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Joe Grogan, who heads Trump’s domestic policy efforts said patients "deserve to be in control, not left at the mercy of a shadowy system."

“President Trump has promised a better vision: a health care system that treats you like a person, not a number. He wants to hold providers and Big Pharma accountable to transparency and reasonable prices," they wrote.

Among other things, the White House has required that drugmakers announce the list price of treatments in advertisements – a move that drew a legal challenge from some pharmaceutical firms – and is finalizing a rule to eliminate the arcane rebates that flow through the health-care system.

The White House is also negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on drug pricing legislation that could allow Medicare to negotiate some costs, while Trump has expressed support for a system under which U.S. consumers purchase cheaper medicine from Canada.

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The FDA has historically fiercely opposed such a proposal, arguing that it cannot verify the safety of the treatments.