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First its CEO tells pharma to watch it on pricing—and then J&J raises them

January 14, 2019
Life sciences

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Call it dramatic irony. Speaking to his biopharma colleagues this week in San Francisco, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said the pharma industry needs to watch itself on pricing, but only days later, his own company rolled out dozens of price hikes.

J&J boosted list prices Thursday on top-sellers such as Xarelto, Stelara and Zytiga, even though the latter drug recently fell off the patent cliff, according to Reuters. Most of its two dozen hikes fell in the 6% to 7% range, according to the news service. A J&J spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from FiercePharma.

Earlier in the week, at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Gorsky had said pharma needs to police itself on pricing or risk a crackdown from outside forces—potentially in the form of government pricing interventions.

“If we don’t do this as an industry, I think there will be other alternatives that will be more onerous for us,” Gorsky said at the conference, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

J&J’s hikes follow hundreds of other price increases by dozens of companies, according to Rx Savings Solutions CEO Michael Rea. After those price increases last week—and amid new calls for pricing action from President Trump, Congress, HHS chief Alex Azar and more—Rea told FiercePharma he expected more to come.

Pfizer, for one, had said it would raise prices Jan. 15, some six months after an angry presidential tweet prompted the company to defer some increases.

When President Donald Trump caught wind of Pfizer’s hikes last summer, he tweeted that the company “should be ashamed.” The president and HHS secretary Alex Azar called then-CEO Ian Read, and Pfizer agreed to hold off. Numerous other drugmakers followed suit, agreeing to stop price increases in 2018 as the administration worked to implement its drug pricing blueprint.

Now that companies are raising prices again, though, Trump is reportedly none too happy. This week, after reports of those hikes, the president called in his advisers for a special meeting, according to Politico.

It’s not just the Trump administration working to lower prices. Democrats in Congress, plus pharma critic Sen. Bernie Sanders, rolled out a set of familiar proposals this week, including Medicare negotiation, importation and an effort to link U.S. prices to prices elsewhere.

Sen. Susan Collins, for her part, pledged to work with the administration on pricing and reaffirmed the issue as a priority after recent hikes.

Meanwhile, the administration is continuing its own program to fight high prices by increasing competition in the markets and creating incentives for lower list prices. Some of the proposals advanced by the federal government have been resisted by the pharma industry and other players.

By Eric Sagonowsky

Source: Fierce Pharma

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