AstraZeneca joins U.S. drug price freeze for rest of 2018

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca has joined other drugmakers in freezing prices in the United States for the rest of 2018, following criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump over the cost of medicine.

Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the British company had no plans for second-half increases, matching similar commitments from Pfizer, Novartis, Roche and Merck.

“There is a clear commitment in the company to not increase prices in the second half of the year,” he told reporters.

In the first half, AstraZeneca raised U.S. list prices by a “modest” 1 to 3 percent, while net prices after rebates are actually falling, he said.

Trump made lowering prescription drug prices a top 2016 presidential campaign issue and has criticized drugmakers for raising prices, saying in a tweet this month that they “should be ashamed”.

The real impact of corporate declarations on second-half pricing remains open to debate, however, with analysts noting that freezes this year could still leave leeway for increases in 2019.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Jason Neely