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Merck reveals seven years of its U.S. drug price increase history

By Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) - Merck & Co <MRK.N> on Friday posted seven years of information showing a high single-digit percentage annual average price hike across its portfolio of medicines in a move that provides new details on its pricing practices for the U.S. market.

Politicians, health insurers and most recently President Donald Trump have criticized drug companies over high U.S. prices for prescription drugs and repeated price hikes. Trump said pharmaceutical companies have been "getting away with murder."

Other pharmaceutical companies have also signaled intentions to address rising criticism over prescription drug cost.

In every year after 2010, Merck said its average list price hikes over its entire drug portfolio was more than 9 percent, peaking at 10.5 percent in 2014. The averages are near the 10 percent level that some pharmaceutical executives and lawmakers have targeted recently.

See graphic http://tmsnrt.rs/2katwVw

The pricing information, which can be found on Merck's website, provides data from 2010 through 2016 on average annual increases to list price, as well as net price after discounts and rebates to payers, including pharmaceutical benefit managers and insurers. It also lists the average discount for each year.

Merck's most important new revenue growth driver, the cancer drug Keytruda, lists for about $150,000 per year of treatment. The class of medicines that are transforming cancer treatment by helping the immune system to attack tumors command high prices but so far help only about 20 percent of patients who receive them.

Merck's chart shows that its annual net price increases ranged from a low of 3.4 percent in 2010 to a high of 6.2 percent in 2012. In 2013, 2015 and 2016, they were 5.5 percent.

The average discount from list price climbed from 27.3 percent in 2010 to 40.9 percent in 2016, Merck said. Payers have been demanding increasing discounts and rebates in exchange for covering a drugmakers' medicines.

Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N> on Tuesday said it was planning to release a "pharmaceutical transparency report" with new disclosures on U.S. pricing, research and development expenses, and programs to supply medicines to those who cannot afford them.

Earlier this month, AbbVie <ABBV.N> became the third major drugmaker to pledge to keep U.S. price increases under 10 percent in 2017. It also said it would raise prices only once this year, rather than the common industry standard of two, often double-digit percentage, price increases.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot, additional reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Bernard Orr)

 

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