Oct 22, 2019

Drug Makers Score Big Off of Price Hikes, Sky-High Launch Prices

As Americans continue to struggle to afford their prescription drug medications, earnings announcements from brand name drug giants Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Novartis demonstrated that price-gouging American patients continues to be a profit-generator for Big Pharma.

All three Big Pharma companies surpassed earnings expectations for the third quarter of 2019 — an auspicious start to the Q3 earnings season for the industry as it continues to hike prices on American patients and fight against market-based reforms to lower prices in Washington.

Kicking off this month’s Q3 earnings reports, Johnson & Johnson announced better than expected earnings despite a host of ongoing legal challenges.

  • The company reported $20.73 billion in revenue, beating expectations of $20.7 billion.
  • Pharmaceutical sales, which account for half of the company’s revenue, were also higher than expected and drew in $10.88 billion.
  • Over the past year, the company has continued to surpass expectations each quarter.

Novartis and Roche also boasted strong earnings.

  • Novartis reported $12.2 billion in revenue, beating expectations of $11.6 billion.
  • Novartis’ boosted sales were driven by block buster drugs, Cosentyx, Entresto and Zolgensma.
  • Roche reported $46.1 billion in sales over the first nine months of the year, up from 10 percent last year and expects its sales to increase in the high-single-digit-rate.
  • Roche’s pharmaceuticals division was up 13 percent this quarter, accounting for $15.64 billion.

These strong earnings reports come as all three companies have continued to hike prices on their prescription drugs.

Johnson & Johnson

  • This year, Johnson & Johnson hiked the price of its best-selling drug Stelara, along with roughly two dozen other drugs in their portfolio – by an average of 4.25 percent.


  • Novartis has hiked the price of top-selling drugs Cosentyx by nearly 10 percent this year, accounting for $937 million (27 percent increase) in revenue this quarter.
  • Entresto, a popular blood pressure medication, increased sales by 61 percent, accounting for $430 million in revenue for Novartis. This year alone, Novartis has increased the price of Entresto three times with an average percent increase of 9.9 percent.
  • Meanwhile, Novartis’ sales of Zolgensma accounted for $160 million in revenue for the company. Zolgensma, a drug used to treat spinal muscular atrophy is the world’s most expensive drug, at $2.1 million per patient.


  • Roche, along with Novartis, was one of several companies that announcedprice hikes this summer. Last year, the company pledged in July that it wouldn’t raise prices, but they had already increased prices of nine drugs by an average of approximately three percent, including Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin – three of their top-selling drugs.
  • A report released earlier this month found that Roche’s price hikes on the popular drug Rituxan were not supported by innovation or improvements and cost U.S. taxpayers $806 million.

These most recent earnings prove once again that Big Pharma is more concerned with profits not patients.

Stay tuned as we continue to monitor Q3 earnings announcements from brand name drug makers over the coming weeks.