Pharma Must Commit to No Price Spikes During Pandemic

Groups Step Up Demands on Prescription Drug Corporations to Suspend Their Usual July 1 Price Increases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Big Pharma should commit not to increase the price of any medications over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Public Citizen reiterated as pharmaceutical price changes are expected today.

Big Pharma typically increases medicine prices twice a year, on July 1 and Jan. 1. In January, corporations raised the prices of 524 medicines. On April 27, Public Citizen wrote letters to 20 major prescription drug corporations, asking them to freeze price increases for the duration of the pandemic. Only four corporations replied: Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Teva. They said they were taking measures to help patients, but none committed not to increase prices.

“Freezing price spikes is the least pharma can do, and its unwillingness to commit to do so during the worst pandemic in a century shows where its priorities lie,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “Price increases on old medicines contribute nothing to innovation, but they do contribute to treatment rationing and people’s suffering.”

Since then, patient advocates and other groups have stepped up the pressure on drug corporations. In the spring, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility challenged drug corporations at their spring annual general meetings, asking CEOs to freeze price increases during the global COVID-19 crisis. In June, the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing launched a campaign calling on drug corporations to freeze price increases. Patients for Affordable Drugs, an independent national patient organization, issued a report citing 250 drug price increases since the pandemic began.

Three in 10 Americans already were rationing their medicines due to cost before the pandemic, according to a recent poll; increasing unemployment and health coverage loss are likely to make the problem worse.