Drugmakers kicked off 2024 by raising the list prices for Ozempic, Mounjaro and dozens of other widely used medicines.
Companies including Novo Nordisk NOVO.B -0.76%decrease; red down pointing triangle, the maker of Ozempic, and Eli Lilly LLY -0.87%decrease; red down pointing triangle, which sells Mounjaro, raised list prices on 775 brand-name drugs during the first half of January, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit drug-pricing analytics group.
The drugmakers raised prices of their medicines by a median 4.5%, though the prices of some drugs rose by around 10% or higher, according to the research group. The median increase is higher than the rate of inflation, which ticked up to 3.4% in December.
Price hikes above inflation for big-selling medicines, in particular, are likely to sharpen scrutiny of the industry just as the Biden administration is taking new steps to rein in the federal government’s drug spending, including plans to start negotiations over pricing.
To blunt criticism from patients, doctors and lawmakers, drugmakers aren’t raising prices as much as they had in years past. Yet the latest round of increases mean some already expensive drugs will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars more a month, which could fuel fresh calls for containing the spiraling costs.
Among the notable increases: The price for Ozempic, a diabetes treatment that many people are taking to lose weight, went up by 3.5% to nearly $970 for a month’s supply. Mounjaro, a diabetes drug in the same class that is also widely used for weight loss, climbed 4.5% to almost $1,070 a month.
Novo Nordisk said list-price changes take into account factors such as market conditions and inflation, and its U.S. list-price increases haven’t reached above single-digit percentages since 2016. Lilly said it sets prices according to a medicine’s value, efficacy and safety.
Pharmaceutical companies generally attributed the price increases to market trends, inflation and the value the drugs provide. Some companies said the list-price changes wouldn’t affect patients’ access to the medicines.
Drugmakers usually raise the list prices of their products during the first several weeks of a new year. More could come in the next few weeks, because companies like Johnson & Johnson hadn’t made any increases in 46brooklyn’s records year to date.
The hikes anger patients and doctors, though drugmakers usually discount the price of their drugs to win reimbursement from health plans, and patients who have health insurance typically pay only a portion of the cost.
Yet high drug costs are such a potent political issue—for both Democrats and Republicans—that pharmaceutical companies have moderated their list-price increases after several years of raising them by double-digit-percentages annually.
Last year, the U.S. government began imposing penalties on companies that raised the list prices of medicines above the rate of inflation. This year, it is scheduled to begin the first-ever negotiations with companies over the prices of 10 drugs including popular blood-thinner Eliquis.
Mark Vogelzang, a 68-year-old in Las Vegas who is taking Eliquis for a heart-rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, said he is paying $341 for a 90-day supply through his Medicare health plan.
“I’m all for a free market for drug purposes,” said Vogelzang, a retired radio executive. “But, in this case, it’s inconsistent and very hard to determine what the real, the right price is for something as crucial as a drug like Eliquis.”
Bristol Myers Squibb BMY 1.34%increase; green up pointing triangle and Pfizer PFE -0.24%decrease; red down pointing triangle, which sell Eliquis, took a list-price increase of 6% on the drug this month. It now lists for $594 for a month’s supply.
Inflation and investment in research and innovation contributed to the company’s list-price increases, a Bristol spokeswoman said. The price paid to the company will “remain nearly flat” this year because of rebates and discounts, she said, and half of patients pay $40 or less a month.
Pfizer referred questions about Eliquis to Bristol. A company spokeswoman speaking generally said the amount of money Pfizer receives for its drugs and vaccines has dropped for the past five years because of climbing rebates and discounts to health insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers.
For its analysis of the list-price increases, 46brooklyn used the so-called wholesale acquisition costs of drugs, which are the prices at which a pharmaceutical company lists a drug for sale to the middlemen that distribute drugs to pharmacies.
The analysis looked at pricing information for prescription drugs through Jan. 15.
Health plans, which pay most of the cost of drugs for most Americans, don’t usually pay list prices. They typically negotiate discounts with drugmakers in exchange for agreeing to cover prescriptions and let plan members take them.
Because of the discounting, pharmaceutical companies have said they often don’t make more money by raising prices. Rather, the drugmakers have said they raise the list prices to give bigger discounts and ensure their products are covered by the health plans.
While list prices grew 5.3% in the third quarter of 2023, the amount pharmaceutical companies received fell by 2.2%, according to SSR Health, a research firm. Declines in net prices are likely to continue this year, the firm said.
More than two dozen drug list prices declined by more than 10% this year—a rare occurrence, according to 46brooklyn Research Chief Executive Antonio Ciaccia.
GlaxoSmithKline GSK -0.15%decrease; red down pointing triangle cut prices this year on several products, including its asthma and emphysema medication Advair Diskus. Insulin products including Lantus from French drugmaker Sanofi SAN -1.83%decrease; red down pointing triangle and Novo Nordisk’s NovoLog fell by more than 70%.
Among big-selling drugs that saw price increases above the median increase this year to date were cystic fibrosis treatment Trikafta from Vertex Pharmaceuticals VRTX -0.47%decrease; red down pointing triangle, which went up 5.9% to $26,546 for a 28-day supply. Vertex said it reviews its medicines to ensure prices reflect their long-term clinical value and anticipated the list-price rise wouldn’t affect access to its medications.
The list-price for the anti-inflammatory drug Dupixent from Sanofi and Regeneron REGN 0.39%increase; green up pointing triangle rose 6% to about $3,800 for a month’s supply. A Sanofi spokesman said list-price increases among the company’s portfolio reflect the market landscape and demands for larger discounts and rebates from middlemen. Regeneron referred comment to Sanofi.
Gilead Sciences GILD 1.24%increase; green up pointing triangle raised the list-price for Biktarvy, a popular HIV treatment, by 4.9% to around $3,980. Gilead said it expects the list-price change won’t affect patients’ access to Biktarvy.
AbbVie ABBV 0.60%increase; green up pointing triangle upped the list price for its psoriasis therapy Skyrizi by 5.8%, according to 46brooklyn. The company declined to comment on the price increase and didn’t respond to requests for Skyrizi’s latest list price. A dose now lists for $21,017, according to Elsevier Health.