Zeroing Out Drug Prices

As we head toward the end of the year, biopharmaceutical companies are announcing their pricing strategies for 2019.

Merck & Co. raised the list price of five drugs, including its blockbuster cancer treatment Keytruda, in November — raising the price of Keytruda by 1.5 percent and its human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil by about 6 percent. The other three treatments that saw increases were vaccines. According to Merck, the average net price of their drugs declined 1.9 percent in 2017.

Under pressure from President Donald Trump, many drugmakers, including Pfizer, Roche and Novartis, agreed to freeze price hikes until the end of 2018. Pfizer’s announcement is particularly detailed and instructive. Here’s the headline of the company’s press release:

“Pfizer Provides Transparency on Drug Prices in the U.S. 90% of Company’s Prices Will Remain Unchanged”

When you separate the spin from the substance, here’s what the headline should be:

“Pfizer adjusts 2019 prices in order to achieve 0 percent net revenue growth”

That’s the truth — but it’s not likely to be reported (or tweeted by a certain someone) that way.

Here are the facts.

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