WASHINGTON, DC — Drug giant Merck’s pledge to cut prices for seven drugs and limit price hikes to no more than the rate of inflation was revealed to be little more than a PR stunt will do virtually nothing to alleviate the suffering of patients under the ever-increasing prices of Merck’s blockbuster drugs.
“Merck gave us the sleeves off its vest,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs. “Nothing announced by Merck amounts to restraint. Merck is trying to get credit for doing nothing. Patients will continue to suffer under high prices. The only way Merck and other big drug corporations will stop fleecing patients is by Congress making real structural reforms that break their monopoly pricing power.”
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
- Merck lowered the price of a drug that they recorded $0 in sales for in the United States for the first quarter of this year. So, yesterday’s announcement of a reduction in the price of Zepatier will do little to help patients. [NYT]
- The six other Merck drugs getting price reductions add up to less than 0.1% of Merck’s total sales. Merck announced it would reduce the price of six other medications by 10% each. But the six other products are all off-patent drugs that can face stiff generic competition. [WSJ]
- Merck’s claim to limit average increases to inflation allows the drug giant to keep raising prices on top sellers whenever Merck wants. In fact, this is nothing new and means very little. “If we look back at Merck’s net price increase across its portfolio in 2017, it was already meeting the criteria outlined today.” [STAT News]
Merck is the latest drug company to try to get credit for lowering its prices when, in fact, the measures won’t have a real impact on most patients’ lives.
- Novartis raised the price of Gleevec by nearly 440 percent from 2001 to 2017. Recently, the drug corporation announced a *temporary pause* in their drug price increases. This doesn’t help the patients who cannot afford the drugs Novartis gouged for nearly two decades. And there’s no timeline for when these prices will come down.
- Pfizer’s well-documented price hikes under CEO and Chair Ian Read entailed increasing the pricing of almost 100 drugs by an average of 20% in just the first half of 2017. These increases mirror price hikes by Pfizer from 2014-2016, ranging from an average of 8 percent to 10 percent approximately every six months during the three-year period. Pfizer announced a *temporary freeze* to their upcoming price increases. The move came only after the drug company announced increases on the prices of over 100 drugs.
- Celgene also issued a bogus commitment to limit their price increases to once per year and to under the rate of US health care expenditure growth. Yet they have already raised the price of their blockbuster drug, Revlimid, by 5% this year. Patients have suffered for years under Celgene’s price hikes, with Revlimid increasing in price by over 19% last year alone.
PATIENTS ARE STILL HURTING
- Merck failed to lower the prices of their blockbuster drugs. Unlike the drugs Merck announced price decreases for, its cancer treatment Keytruda and diabetes drug Januvia brought in more than $1.3 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2018. Those prices were not decreased and patients continue to struggle to afford the drugs.
- Joe of Aurora, OH says, “With diabetes, I live with a day to day struggle with my glucose monitoring. Januvia has really helped me, but there is no generic. $450.00 per 30 pills is deplorable for any person, let alone someone on a fixed income. I must take this for the rest of my life! So why so expensive?”
- Eileen of Bismark, ND says, “My physician prescribed Januvia. I went to pick up the medicine and the pharmacy told me that I had to pay $213 for a 90 day supply of the Januvia, I found out the price the drug company charges is $1026.00. Since I am only on Medicare and a small pension, I cannot afford even the $213, I refused the pills.”