NEW YORK — President Donald Trump made reducing drug prices a key promise during his election campaign, repeatedly accusing drugmakers of "getting away with murder." At the end of May, he promised that drug companies would be announcing "massive" voluntary drug price cuts within two weeks.
That hasn't happened, and an Associated Press analysis of brand-name prescription drug prices shows it's been business as usual for drugmakers, with far more price hikes than cuts. The number of increases slowed somewhat and were not quite as steep as in past years, the AP found.
Over the first seven months of the year, there were 96 price hikes for every price cut, the AP found. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the administration's point person for efforts to lower drug prices, conceded in a recent AP interview that it will be a while before drug prices fall. He noted the complexity of the medicine market and its incentives for drugmakers to boost prices so they and middlemen make bigger profits.
"I am not counting on the altruism of pharma companies lowering their prices," said Azar, who was a senior executive in Eli Lilly & Co.'s U.S. business for a decade when it dramatically raised prices for its insulin products.
The AP analyzed 26,176 U.S. list price changes for brand-name prescription drugs from Jan. 1 through July 31 in the years 2015 through 2018, using data supplied by health information analytics firm Elsevier. The AP focused its analysis on the first seven months of each year because of the seasonality of price changes and to make meaningful year-to-year comparisons.
The data included more than 97 percent of price changes during those periods and, for many drugs, several dosages and drugs forms, such as pills, liquids and injectable drugs. (In the 3 percent of cases not analyzed, the AP couldn't determine how the new price compared with the previous one or whether it was for a product new on the market.)