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Novartis follows Pfizer's lead, pledges no price hikes in 2018

Published on 18/07/18 at 11:11am

Following US pharma giant Pfizer’s clash with President Donald Trump after it was called out on Twitter for hiking the prices of 100 of its products since the beginning of the year, Novartis has followed suit, pledging to freeze any increases in its own pricing until the end of the year.

It was an exchange that arrested the attentions of the industry as Trump flexed his political muscle to single out Pfizer via his favourite social media platform. Just months before, he had outlined his plan to bring down rampant drug prices after more than a year of posturing on the issue, and Pfizer had simply ignored it. But the President’s threat worked, with Pfizer agreeing, in a private discussion between Trump, CEO Ian Read and Health and Human Services Secretary and former Eli Lilly Executive Alex Azar, to halt its proposed price increases until 2019, or until the proposed drug pricing plan came into effect – whichever comes first.

With the industry acutely aware of the PR damage a call-out from the President can inflict, they will now be especially considerate of avoiding his gaze. To avoid a similar fate to the one Pfizer experienced, and to avoid further negative publicity following its liaison with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has said in an interview with Bloomberg that the company will be taking a similar tactic.

“We thought the prudent thing to do was to pull back on any further price increases in 2018 and evaluate as the environment evolves,” he said. In a drive towards more ethical operation, he also noted that any costing of medicines must be “reasonable” and “defensible”, and in line with the value that they offer for patients.

Matt Fellows

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