January 27, 2015 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

Novartis pharma boss expects pressure on cancer drug prices

ZURICH (Reuters) - Payers are likely to put pressure on drugmakers to lower the cost of cancer medicines, particularly when alternative treatments are available, the head of Novartis’ pharma division said on Tuesday.

“I think there will be increased pressure on oncology prices,” David Epstein, head of Novartis’ pharmaceutical division told an analyst call after the company reported fourth-quarter results.

The high price of new immuno-oncology drugs which are expected to be used in combination with other medicines would make it necessary to impose a limit on costs, he said.

“I fully expect whenever a payer has good therapeutic equivalents to be able to put pressure on,” he said.

U.S. pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts has become more aggressive in negotiating discounts on drugs for insurance plans and employers. Earlier this month it said cost savings on expensive cancer treatments could be achieved if the company were involved earlier in the decision-making process.

Reporting by Caroline Copley

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