Trump thanks Novartis, Pfizer for not hiking drug prices

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Roche, Bayer and Merck KGaA all said on Friday they would not seek to lift prices this year in the world's biggest drug market, following Novartis, Pfizer and US drugmaker Merck which had already announced similar moves.

Several major pharmaceutical companies lowered their spending on lobbyists in the second quarter of 2018, a time of uncertainty as President Donald Trump's administration continued its campaign to lower drug costs for consumers.

"We take decisions related to the prices of our medicines very seriously and our commitment to patient access and investment in future breakthroughs are reflected in our actions".

"This decision (by Merck) is a response to President Trump's blueprint and reflects the industry's understanding that the President is serious about bringing change to our drug markets", U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

Germany's Merck KGaA also relented to pressure.

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Pfizer was expected to raise the cost of its USA products by as much as 10%. "We thought that was prudent, given the dynamic environment we're now in", he said.

Last week, Pfizer chief executive Ian Read said his company would delay increasing the prices of dozens of drug products after Trump publicly berated the firm one day earlier.

Merck said Thursday evening that it would cut the cost of hepatitis C medicine Zepatier by 60% and would lower the cost of six other medications by 10%, including Prinivil (Lisinopril), Proscar (finasteride), Remeron (mirtazapine), Sinemet (carbidopa/levodopa), Sinemet CR (carbidopa/levodopa ER) and Trusopt (dorzolamide HCl). A spokesman for Novartis said the company notified the state of California, which has a new drug-price transparency law, of its decision in June but the news was not widely known.

In 2017 it priced Ocrevus at $65,000 annually, undercutting German rival Merck KGaA's Rebif by a quarter even though Ocrevus beat Rebif in a trial.

In the statement, Merck also pledges to continue evaluating their portfolio to look for opportunities to reduce costs for patients. But the companies have garnered praise from Trump, who has assumed bragging rights for being successful in lowering drug prices.

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