Pharma giant Merck just lowered the prices of some of its medications (MRK)


AP

Amid scrutiny over big pharma drug pricing, Merck said on Thursday it would lower the price of some of its medications. 

The pharmaceutical giant said it would reduce the cost of its hepatitis C medication Zepatier by 60%. 

“We believe that further changes are still necessary to help reduce patient out-of-pocket costs,” Merck said in a statement. 

The list price of Zepatier had been $54,600 for a course of treatment, lower than its competitors. The drug had $1.6 billion in sales in 2017. 

Other Merck drugs, which the company hasn’t yet named, will be lowered by 10%. 

But those drugs make up less than 0.1% of Merck’s overall sales, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat said in a note on Thursday. 

The decision comes a little over a week after President Donald J. Trump singled out rival Pfizer over its price increases. The move prompted Pfizer to defer its increases until the end of the year and Novartis to commit to not increasing prices for the rest of the year. 

Merck is the first major pharmaceutical company to actually lower its drug prices in the wake of the Trump administration’s drug-pricing plan, which was unveiled in May, as Pfizer and Novartis simply deferred future price increases. 

While the Trump administration didn’t single out Merck recently, the firm was the subject of a tweet by Trump last August. Amid Merck CEO Ken Frazier’s withdrawal from Trump’s manufacturing council, Trump tweeted that the move would give Frazier more time to “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Here’s Merck’s statement: 

“Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, has a long history of responsible pricing. In 2017, Merck issued its second annual Pricing Action Transparency Report, which showed that net prices across Merck’s U.S. product portfolio declined by 1.9 percent. We believe that further changes are still necessary to help reduce patient out-of-pocket costs. To demonstrate our commitment to achieving this goal, we are making the following announcement:

We commit to not increase the average net price across our portfolio of products by more than inflation annually.

We are also lowering our price on ZEPATIER by 60 percent and several other medicines by 10 percent to reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients across the country. The Merck products selected were based on a range of factors including the gap between list price and actual discounted (net) prices paid in the market, the contractual obligations under existing arrangements with payers, and the opportunity to broaden access to treatment.

Going forward, we will continue to evaluate our portfolio of products to look for opportunities to further reduce costs for patients and the health care system.”

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