Merck raised prices five drugs including Keytruda in November

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc said on Wednesday it raised U.S. prices on five of its drugs earlier in November by between 1.5 percent and 6 percent, including its top-selling cancer treatment Keytruda.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Merck & Co. campus in Linden, New Jersey March 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky

The list price increases are the first that the U.S. drugmaker has made since pledging in July that it would not raise the average net price of all of its medicines by more than the inflation rate.

Merck raised the price of cancer immunotherapy Keytruda, which is forecast to bring in more than $7 billion in sales this year, by around 1.5 percent.

That follows a similar price increase for Keytruda earlier in the year, according to data from Rx Savings Solutions, which collects pricing data to help its customers save money on drugs.

It also raised the price of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil, which protects against cancers related to the virus, by around 6 percent. Analysts expect Gardasil will generate around $3 billion in sales for Merck this year.

It also raised the list price on three other vaccines.

“Merck remains committed to responsibly pricing our medicines,” Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele said in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate our portfolio of products to look for opportunities to further reduce costs for patients and the health care system.”

Eisele said the average net price of Merck’s drugs, including rebates and discounts, fell 1.9 percent in the United States in 2017.

The latest increases earlier this month predate a Nov. 16 announcement by rival Pfizer Inc that it would raise prices on 41 of its medicines in January.

Many drugmakers, including Pfizer, Roche and Novartis, in July pledged not to raise prices for the remainder of 2018. Pfizer, under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, reversed course at the time and decided not to take previously announced price increases on some prescription medicines.

Merck in July announced the lowering of list prices of a handful of medicines, including a hepatitis C treatment with a very small market share and six other older drugs with minuscule sales.

Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Berkrot