Amid push from Trump, Pfizer 'defers' Rx price increases

Pfizer on Tuesday announced that, following "an extensive discussion with President Trump," the drugmaker will "defer" price increases it had implemented earlier this month "to give [Trump] an opportunity to work on his blueprint" for prescription drug pricing.

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Background

Pfizer last week announced price increases for more than 41 of its products, including a 9.44% price increase for Viagra, following a separate increase of 9.44% in January. Viagra's list price now is more than $2,200 for a 30-pill supply.

Trump in a tweet posted Monday criticized the increase, writing that Pfizer and other drugmakers "should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason." He wrote that drug companies "are merely taking advantage of the poor [and] others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe [and] elsewhere." Trump added that his administration would "respond," but he did not specify what actions his administration might take.

Separately, HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a tweet posted Monday wrote drugmakers that recently raised drug prices "will be remembered for creating a tipping point in U.S. drug-pricing policy." He continued, "Change is coming to drug pricing, whether painful or not for pharmaceutical companies."

But Pfizer defended the price increase, saying it "work[s] to ensure access and advocate that most of the savings that insurers negotiate with drug companies get passed to patients to relieve their out-of-pocket burden." The company added that its "list price[s] remain[ed] unchanged for the majority of [its] medicines," saying it was "modifying prices for about 10% of [its] medicines, including some instances where [the company was] decreasing the price."

Pfizer says it will suspend price increases

Trump in a tweet posted Tuesday evening wrote that he had "[j]ust talked with" Pfizer Chair and CEO Ian Read and Azar about the Trump administration's drug pricing blueprint. He wrote, "Pfizer is rolling back price hikes, so American patients don't pay more. We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same."

Pfizer in a statement released later on Tuesday said, "Following an extensive discussion with" Trump, the company "will defer [its] price increases that were effective on July 1 to give [Trump] an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the health care system and provide more access for patients." Pfizer said it would roll back the price increases "to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible" and will maintain those prices until the end of this year or until the administration implements the blueprint, whichever comes first.

Read in the statement said "Pfizer shares [Trump's] concern for patients and commitment to providing affordable access to the medicines they need." A Pfizer spokesperson said the company had no further comment on the matter, Politico reports.

Reaction

Azar during an appearance on CNN Tuesday applauded Pfizer, saying, "I commend Pfizer for its constructive and professional approach, and its desire to work with … Trump to be part of the solution and not part of the problem."

Azar in a separate statement issued later said Trump "has made it clear that Americans are paying too much for prescription drugs and that the price increases must stop." He continued, "I look forward to working with Pfizer and others who share [Trump's] concern for patients, and that want to work with us to lower list prices and reduce out of pocket costs."

However, Axios' "Vitals" reports that the development in actuality does not "pu[t] much a dent in drug prices." "Vitals" reports that "Pfizer is only deferring [the] price hikes, not canceling them. And it's taking its products back to what they cost in June—a time when Trump was very much of the belief that the prices were too high" (Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 7/11; Snyder, NPR, 7/11; Hellmann, The Hill, 7/10; Abutaleb/Erman, Reuters, 7/10; Diamond, Politico, 7/10; Rockoff, Wall Street Journal, 7/10).

Learn more: How you can save money on your employees' drug cost

To learn more about how you can save money on your employees' drug cost, view our infographic on how pharmacy can help reduce employee benefit costs.

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