Jul 30, 2021

Big Pharma Companies Continue to Rake in Massive Profits After Three Rounds of Price Hikes During Pandemic

Brand name drug makers Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) held earnings calls this week for the second quarter of the year. Each of the earnings calls demonstrated pandemic price hikes continued to be profitable for the Big Pharma giants. All three companies beat Wall Street expectations while posting massive sales figures, after having hiked prices on prescription drugs in their portfolios during the pandemic.


  • Pfizer smashed Wall Street expectations, reporting sales of $19 billion for the second quarter.
  • The company’s COVID-19 vaccine brought in $7.8 billion in revenue in Q2.
  • The company boosted its total projected revenues for the year almost $10 billion higher than expected last quarter – to between $78 billion to $80 billion for the year.
  • Sales of Pfizer’s breast cancer treatment Ibrance rose four percent to $1.4 billion – after the company hikedthe price of the drug by five percent in January of this year.
  • The company reported 10 percent revenue growth apart from its COVID-19 vaccine – driven in large part by having increased prices on more than 130 products across their portfolio in Q1.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Bristol Myers Squibb beat Wall Street expectations for the second quarter, posting revenues of $11.7 billion.
  • Strong sales were driven by blockbuster cancer drugs Revlimid and Opdivo, which brought in $3.2 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively.
  • Blood-thinner Eliquis, another one of Bristol Myer Squibb’s best-selling drugs, brought in an additional $2.7 billion for the quarter.
  • GSK also bested Wall Street expectations and posted profit of $1.94 billion for the quarter.
  • Pharmaceutical sales were up 12 percent in Q2.
  • Sales revenue in GSK’s oncology portfolio increased a whopping 69 percent year over year, driven in part by price hikes on blockbuster drug cancer drug Zejula.
  • Sales were also buoyed by blockbuster respiratory drug Trelegy Ellipta, which surged 64 percent year over year.
The expectation-beating earnings come as the companies have continued to hike prices on prescription drugs and engage in anti-competitive behavior during the pandemic.


  • Pfizer has already hiked drug prices more than 130 times this year alone – in two different batches in January and July.
  • Recently, Pfizer increased the price of two of its best-selling drugs, cancer treatment Ibrance and rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz – both by five percent.
  • Pfizer executives have repeatedly pledged to hike prices on the company’s COVID-19 vaccine when the pandemic wanes.
  • Breakout drug Vyndaqel is estimated to “become among the most costly cardiovascular treatments ever,” according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER).
  • Price hikes on Pfizer’s drug Lyrica were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of nearly $700 million from 2017-2018 according to ICER.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Bristol Myers Squibb started off the new year by hiking prices on at least ten medications, including two cancer drugs, Opdivo and Revlimid, as well as on blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis.
  • Last year, Bristol Myers Squibb hiked prices on at least 15 medications.
  • In 2019, Bristol Myers Squibb acquired Revlimid in a $74 billion blockbuster deal with Celgene. On the day the deal was announced, Celgene boosted the price of Revlimid to $719.82. The drug cost $247.28 in 2007.
  • This was business as usual for Bristol Myers Squibb. From 2015 to 2019 the company had the most price hikes per drug of any Big Pharma company.
  • GSK has already raised prices on more than 30 drugs in 2021, including on its blockbuster respiratory treatments and its cancer drug Zejula.
  • GSK participated in summer price hikes last year, even as Americans battled the economic ramifications of the pandemic.
  • In 2020, GSK increased prices 47 times, including on top-selling respiratory drug Trelegy Ellipta.

Read more on Q2 earnings from Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Roche HERE.

Stay tuned this week as we continue to monitor Q2 earnings announcements from Big Pharma.

Learn more about market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.