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Expect big drug price increases in 2019

Written by Diane Archer

Reuters reports that pharmaceutical companies are hiking up prices on a lot of prescription drugs this year. Why not, if they can? And, what will President Trump do about it given his promise to bring down prescription drug prices in the US?

Novartis, Bayer AG, Allergan, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Biogen are all raising their drug prices this month or soon after. Novartis has announced its plan to raise prices on more than 30 of its drugs. And, Pfizer has said it will raise prices on 41 of its drugs. Glaxo claims it will not raise its drug prices more than 10 percent, a steep increase given that the rate of inflation is less than half that.

Most of these pharmaceutical companis’ price increases are likely to be significant. These pharmaceutical companies, along with 20 others have notified the California agencies that they are planning to raise prices. They are only required to so, do under California state law, if their drug prices will go up more than 16 percent over two years.

Many of the pharmaceutical companies are claiming that they will be offering discounts and rebates that more than offset their list price increases. That means more money to health insurers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM), which put their drugs on the health plan formularies. The pharmaceutical company rebates cement an alliance with insurers and PBMs that should serve the pharmaceutical industry well when policymakers challenge high drug prices. It provides no help to Americans. 

And, why does Congress continue to let pharmaceutical companies charge Americans about twice as much as people in other wealthy countries. That costs us about $250 billion each year. Senator Sanders and Congressman Khanna have a bill to set drug brand-name prices at the average of what five other wealthy countries pay. Senator Warren and Congresswoman Schakowsky have a bill that would lower generic drug prices. They are in line with Trump’s assertion that we should not be paying more than other wealthy countries. But, so far, Republican policymakers have no interest in supporting one or both of these bills.

If you want Congress to rein in drug prices, please sign this petition.

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