When drug giant Pfizer announced in July that it would roll back price hikes on its drugs, it made clear that the change was temporary. Facing intense pressure from President Donald Trump, the company said it would defer price increases until the president’s blueprint for lowering prescription prices took effect or the end of the year, “whichever is sooner.”
The end of the year came sooner, and the deferrals will ultimately have lasted about six months. The company said Friday it is planning to raise the list prices on 41 of its drugs effective January 15. Most of those drugs will see prices rise by 5 percent, while three drugs will see increases of 3 percent and one will go up 9 percent. Combined, the 41 drugs represent 10 percent of the company’s medicines. The other 90 percent will stay at their current list prices, Pfizer said.
“The drug price pledges made earlier this year were just for show — it was obvious at the time, and it's obvious now,” Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, told Politico. “The bully pulpit doesn't work, and even if it did, we don't want a system in which the only way to bring down drug prices is for the president to publicly berate a company — that's not a healthy market and not good policy.”
Pfizer said that it expects the list price increases will be offset by higher rebates and discounts paid to insurers and the pharmacy benefit managers who administer prescription plans — and that it expects those companies to share those benefits with patients so that out-of-pocket costs don’t jump.
"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," Pfizer Chairman and CEO Ian Read said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told reporters that the announcement illustrated the “perverse incentives” in drug pricing. "Drug companies raising their prices and offsetting them with higher rebates benefits everyone but the consumer, who routinely pays out of pocket based on list price," spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, according to CNN.