Pfizer Postpones Price Hikes After Trump “Discussion”

by Ike Obudulu Posted on July 11th, 2018

Pfizer on Tuesday said it would reverse its decision to raise prices on dozens of drugs after pressure from President Donald Trump.

Pfizer Inc. raised the list prices for more than 40 of its prescription drugs last week, marking a second round of increases this year despite mounting public scrutiny.

Last week, the pharmaceutical giant announced it would raise prices on a long list of drugs, including drugs for lung cancer, blood pressure and erectile dysfunction, by more than 10 percent and by double-digit percentages for the year overall.

The increases apply to widely used drugs including lung-cancer treatment Xalkori, Norvasc blood-pressure pills and Lyrica pain capsules. Arthritis treatment Xeljanz, Viagra for erectile dysfunction, and Chantix, a pill to help stop smoking, were also included in the list.

The hikes collectively boost many drugs’ prices by double-digit percentages for the year overall. For instance, Chantix’s price jumped nearly 17 percent this year; Pfizer gave it a 9.4 percent increase in January and another seven percent boost July 1, bringing the list price of a 56-tablet bottle to $429, the Wall Street Journal noted. Likewise, Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction drug Viagra saw a 9.4 percent increase July 1 after a similar hike in January. Those hikes bring the list price of a month’s supply to $2,211.

Such twice-a-year price increases of around 10 percent used to be commonplace in the US pharmaceutical industry. But notable, eye-popping hikes have made such bumps a flashpoint for consumers and lawmakers. For instance, public fury ignited at Martin Shkreli’s abrupt 5,000 percent price increase of an old, cheap anti-parasitic drug—one often given to babies and people with HIV/AIDS. And Mylan’s gradual 400 percent price increase for the live-saving EpiPen further enraged the public and Congressional committees.

In the aftermath, many—but not all—of Pfizer’s rivals pledged to raise prices just once a year and generally keep the hikes to under 10 percent. Moreover, President Donald Trump suggested on May 30 that the industry was poised to make “massive” voluntary price cuts in the coming weeks. No such cuts have been announced, and Pfizer’s continued increases belie that notion.

But the announcement prompted a response from Trump, who said in May that pharmaceutical companies will be lowering prices.

“Pfizer & others should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe & elsewhere. We will respond!”
That response apparently came on Tuesday, when Trump met with Pfizer CEO Ian Read and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. After the meeting, Trump tweeted that Pfizer will reverse the price hikes.

“Just talked with Pfizer CEO and @SecAzar on our drug pricing blueprint,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Pfizer is rolling back price hikes, so American patients don’t pay more. We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same. Great news for the American people!”

Pfizer confirmed that it will reverse the price hikes, but said that decision will be temporary pending the outcome of Trump’s “blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients.”

“The company will return these prices to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year — whichever is sooner,” Pfizer said in a statement.

Read the full statement from Pfizer below:

Following an extensive discussion with President Trump today, Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO Ian Read announced that it will defer the company’s price increases that were effective on July 1 to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients. The company will return these prices to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year – whichever is sooner. In addition, the price declines the company took as of July 1 will remain in effect.

“Pfizer shares the President’s concern for patients and commitment to providing affordable access to the medicines they need,” said Ian Read. “The most fundamental way the biopharmaceutical industry creates value is by discovering innovative medicines that help people live longer, healthier, more productive lives. We have entered an exciting new era with scientific advances that will result in future breakthroughs and cures. This highly complex and important work also generates hundreds of thousands of highly skilled jobs across the U.S. Furthermore we have recently committed $5 billion of capital to expand our manufacturing in the U.S. We are encouraged that the President recognizes the value our industry brings to society and our ability to fulfill our mission to discover and bring innovative new medicines to patients.”

Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies, now likely will not raise drug prices until after the 2018 midterm elections in November. That gives Trump, who made lowering prescription drug prices a top 2016 presidential campaign issue, a short-term victory he can point to in the run-up to the elections, which are being closely watched to see if Trump’s fellow Republicans will be able to maintain control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Pfizer (PFE) shares wobbled but ultimately shook off a critical Twitter blast from Donald Trump, who said the drugmaker and others “should be ashamed” about raising drug prices. Shares of Pfizer, which had risen as much as 0.53 per cent to touch a session high of $37.47, dipped briefly to touch a low of $37.01 after the tweet before clawing back nearly all of those losses to trade 0.34 per cent higher at $37.24.

Leave a Reply