Pfizer weighs strategic alternatives consumer healthcare business

Move comes amid national drug-pricing controversy

Last week, Pfizer increased the list prices of its medications in the United States by an average of 8.8%, according to an article in STAT News. This is the second time this year that the company has boosted prices for its prescription drugs. On January 1, Pfizer’s prices rose an average of 10.4% for 100 of its drugs. The increases, however, do not reflect rebates or discounts.

Pfizer’s move comes amid a growing controversy over prescription drug pricing. The issue exploded last year after two companies—Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals—drew fire for their strategies of buying older medications and then jacking up prices by sky-high percentages. Turing, for example, boosted the price of a human immunodeficiency virus treatment by approximately 5,000%—from $13.50 a tablet to $750—shortly after buying the drug. Valeant, meanwhile, hiked the price of the Nitropress heart drug, which is used by hospitals, by 525% on the same day it bought the medication. Those questionable tactics prompted congressional scrutiny.

A Pfizer spokesman told STAT News that, last year, the company paid approximately $4.6 billion in rebates to Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers. “Some of our most widely used medicines, including Lyrica [pregabalin], Xalkori [crizotinib], Ibrance [palbociclib], and Prevnar [pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate vaccine (diphtheria CRM197 protein)], will not have an increase,” he said.

In January, Pfizer confirmed a 9.4% increase for its heavily advertised pain drug Lyrica; a 12.9% increase for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil); and a 5.0% increase for the breast cancer treatment Ibrance.

Sources: STAT News; June 9, 2016; and Reuters; January 8, 2016.

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