Drug pricing controversies erupt

November 20, 2018
Christine Blank
Christine Blank

While some pharma makers have lowered drug prices and Express Scripts is pushing more branded manufacturers to lower list prices with its new National Preferred Flex Formulary, some manufacturers are raising drug prices.

While some pharma makers have lowered drug prices and Express Scripts is pushing more branded manufacturers to lower list prices with its new National Preferred Flex Formulary, some manufacturers are raising drug prices.

While some pharma makers have lowered drug prices and Express Scripts is pushing more branded manufacturers to lower list prices with its new National Preferred Flex Formulary, some manufacturers are raising drug prices.

Early next year, Pfizer will raise prices on 41 of its drugs, representing around 10% of its portfolio, the company announced late last week. All but four of the drugs will realize a price hike of 5%. Prices on three drugs will increase 3%, while one will go up by 9%.

"We believe the best means to address affordability of medicines is to reduce the growing out-of-pocket costs that consumers are facing due to high deductibles and co-insurance, and ensure that patients receive the benefit of rebates at the pharmacy counter," said Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer, in a statement from the company.

Related: Pharma exec defends 400% price hike

However, the pricing strategy seems to go against President Donald Trump’s “Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices” strategy. In addition, earlier this year, Trump tweeted that Pfizer should be "ashamed" of itself for raising prices at the time.

Another drug pricing controversy has erupted over Evzio (Kaleo), a naloxone (opioid overdose reversal) product that is priced at more than $4,000. Kaleo raised the price of its a talking auto-injector with naloxone by more than 600% in recent years, a new Senate subcommittee report found. However, regular naloxone kits typically cost between $20 and $40 each.

Kaléo raised the price of Evzio in February, 2016, and launched a new distribution model to “capitalize on the opportunity” of “opioid overdose at epidemic levels,” the report said.

Related: Cancer drug prices rise despite Trump plan

“As part of its new distribution model, the company’s sales force focused on ensuring doctor offices signed any necessary paperwork…for the Evzio prescription to be filled and covered. This included paperwork indicating that Evzio was medically necessary, which ensured the drug would be covered by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid for the Wholesale Acquisition Cost, less any patient copays, despite the fact that less costly alternatives exist,” the report said.

The distribution model resulted in $142 million in charges to taxpayers in the last four years, according to the report.

But Pfizer and Kaleo are not the only pharma makers raising prices. Nostrum Laboratories quadrupled the price of a bottle of the antibiotic nitrofurantoin from $474.75 to $2,392 earlier this year.

Plus, Bayer increased the list prices of regorafenib (Stivarga) and sorafenib (Nexavar) by more than $1,000 per month, the drugs’ second price hike in six months.

Now, Stivarga is around $16,860 per month, while Nexavar costs $18,670 per month, the Washington Post reported. Both drugs are 13% higher than they were in 2017.

Read more: Pharmacy chains praise Trump drug pricing plan