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Pharma Giant AbbVie Signals It May Go All In On Raising Medication Prices

Sept. 25, 2017

Pharma Giant AbbVie Signals It May Go All In On Raising Medication Prices

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicine Program

Note: Only months ago, pharma corporation AbbVie pledged to hold year-to-year price spikes to single digits. Public reports now indicate that the drugmaker has told investors that it “has the flexibility to revert to more than one price increase per year and to double-digit increases in 2018 and beyond.”

AbbVie’s cynical about-face reduces the number of top pharma firms that have pledged to keep year-to-year price spikes under 10 percent to a paltry three out of 29 corporations worldwide.  Apparently AbbVie is not satisfied to rip off consumers for billions by blocking competition for Humira. The company waited only until the first moment it believed the public could be distracted to go back on its promise to limit the cost of medications. AbbVie’s manipulations epitomize Big Pharma maneuvering that has reduced public trust in the industry to record lows.

When Public Citizen asked (three times), the remaining 25 top firms declined to pledge to limit annual price spikes for older medicines to single digits, a margin that would still allow excessive profits and price increases beyond the rate of medical inflation.

Big Pharma is far from serious about reining in price gouging. Instead, the industry means to ride out and misdirect public anger, blaming middlemen and regulators to avoid any serious challenge to its monopoly abuses, which is the core problem driving high medication prices. These cost families billions every year and make treatment rationing inevitable.

Americans say that reducing medication prices should be the absolute top priority for the U.S. Congress the rest of this year, according to a new poll from Harvard and Politico. It’s time to end the cruel efforts to strip health care away from millions of people and get down to the business of reducing health care costs – starting with prescription medication price abuse.

There is a remedy for price gouging: Congress can pass the Stop Price Gouging Act, introduced earlier this year by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), which would limit annual prescription price spikes or cumulative price hikes over a five-year period. An analysis by Harvard researchers estimated that this bill could save several billion in taxpayer dollars annually through Medicare alone.

The short list of companies pledging to limit price increases includes:

• Allergan, which laudably initiated the pledge. Yet Allergan recently sheltered a high-priced monopoly medication by paying a Native American tribe to hold its patent, thereby dodging price-cutting competition from generics;

• Novo Nordisk, which along with Eli Lilly & Co. and Sanofi-Aventis has enraged millions of people through alleged cartel price-gouging of the aging insulin hormone, and increased its price this year by 7.9 percent; and

• Valeant, the corporation that scandalized the nation by buying other companies and spiking the prices of their older drugs, and is under criminal investigation for an alleged kickbacks scheme designed to keep prices high, now pledging under new leadership to repair its devastated reputation.