President Donald Trump made reducing drug prices a key promise during his election campaign, repeatedly accusing drugmakers of "getting away with murder." At the end of May, he promised that drug companies would be announcing "massive" voluntary drug price cuts within two weeks.
An Associated Press analysis of brand-name prescription drug prices shows it's mostly been business as usual for drugmakers. In the two months after Trump's announcement, there were more than 16 price hikes for every decrease, the AP found. Over the first seven months of the year, there were 96 price increases for every cut.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the administration's point person for efforts to lower drug prices, conceded in a recent AP interview that it would be a while before drug prices fall. He noted the complexity of the medicine market and its incentives for drugmakers to boost prices, so they and middlemen make bigger profits.
Among the AP's findings:
1. There were fewer price increases this year from January through July than in comparable prior-year periods, but companies still hiked prices far more often than they cut them. This year through the end of July, there were 4,412 brand-name drug price increases and 46 price cuts, a ratio of 96-to-1.
2. In June and July, right after Trump's price cut prediction, there were 395 price increases and 24 decreases. The two dozen cuts were up from the 15 decreases in those same two months last year, but increases still outpaced decreases by a ratio of 16.5-to-1.
3. The median price increase, meaning half were higher and half lower, was 5.2% in June and July of 2018, down from 8% in that period in 2017.
4. The median price cut this June and July was 11%, much smaller than in comparable periods in prior years.
The AP also asked 24 large drug companies this summer if they planned to cut drug prices. None said they did, though some didn't answer. Drugmakers typically say they need to keep raising prices of existing drugs to pay for costly, lengthy research to develop new medicines, though industry critics dispute that.
Dr. Peter Bach, who heads the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said the AP's analysis shows there's been no big move to decrease prices.