More January U.S. price hikes take 2020 tally to over 330 drugs with higher cost

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - AbbVie Inc on Thursday raised the cost of rheumatoid arthritis treatment Humira, the world’s top-selling medicine, joining other drugmakers that have now hiked U.S. prices of more than 330 prescription drugs for 2020, according to data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

That is currently below the average of 371 drug price increases in the first two days over the past five years. However, more price hikes could still be announced, including some that would be effective as of Jan. 1, 3 Axis said.

Drugmakers Allergan Plc and Novartis AG raised U.S. prices in early 2019, but have not announced any 2020 price hikes yet. Neither company was immediately available for comment.

Nearly all of the price increases are below 10%, with the median price increase around 5%, according to 3 Axis.

Reuters previously reported that drugmakers including Pfizer Inc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co had raised prices on more than 250 drugs.

Soaring healthcare costs for U.S. consumers, and prescription drug prices in particular, are expected to again be a central issue in the 2020 presidential campaign for both parties. President Donald Trump, a Republican who made bringing them down a core pledge of his 2016 campaign, is running for re-election in 2020.

Under pressure from politicians and patients, many makers of branded drugs have pledged to keep their U.S. list price increases below 10% a year.

The United States, which leaves drug pricing to market competition, has higher prices than in other developed countries where governments directly or indirectly control the costs, making it the world’s most lucrative market for manufacturers.

Drugmakers often negotiate rebates or discounts on their list prices in exchange for favorable treatment from insurers and other healthcare payers. As a result, insurers and covered patients rarely pay the full list price of a drug.

AbbVie raised prices on more than 10 drugs, including Humira, which is on track for sales of about $19 billion for 2019, and newly-launched psoriasis treatment Skyrizi, according to 3 Axis. The list price for those two medicines went up by more than 7%. AbbVie could not be immediately reached for comment.

Roche’s Genentech said it increased the prices of 11 of its drugs by between 1% and 3%.

3 Axis advises pharmacy industry groups on identifying inefficiencies in the U.S. drug supply chain and has provided consulting work to hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a prominent critic of high drug prices. (Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by Bill Berkrot)