May 4, 2021

Brand Name Drug Makers Boosting Profits, Sales After Engaging In Pandemic Price Hikes

Another round of first quarter earnings reports from brand name drug makers Sanofi, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Amgen, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) showcase how Big Pharma continues to bank expectation-beating profits and rising sales against a backdrop of continued price hikes — even during the pandemic.


  • Sanofi beat Wall Street earnings estimates – pulling in $10.37 billion for the quarter.
  • Sales of Sanofi’s blockbuster eczema drug Dupixent increased 45.6 percent in Q1 – reaching just over $1 billion for the quarter.
  • Merck reported revenue of $12.1 billion in Q1.
  • Strong sales were driven by the company’s oncology portfolio.
  • Sales of Merck’s blockbuster drug Keytruda jumped 19 percent in the quarter to notch just under $4 billion in sales in the first three months of the year.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb’s sales for the first quarter hit $11.1 billion.
  • Strong sales were driven by blockbuster cancer drug Revlimid – which brought in $2.94 billion.
  • Another oncology drug in BMS’ portfolio, Opdivo, brought in $1.72 billion for the quarter.
  • Amgen tallied $5.9 billion in sales for the first quarter.
  • Sales were driven by blockbuster plaque psoriasis treatment Otezla and immunology drug Enbrel – which brought in $476 million and $924 million respectively.
  • Amgen’s cholesterol drug Repatha also raked in $286 million for the quarter – an eye-popping 28 percent increase year over year.
  • GSK reported sales of $10.28 million for Q1.
  • Sales were buoyed by blockbuster respiratory drug Trelegy Ellipta, which brought in $248 million for the quarter, a 28 percent increase year over year.
  • Sales of GSK’s oncology portfolio increased 38 percent year over year, driven in part by price increases on blockbuster drug cancer drug Zeluja.
All five companies engaged in at least one – if not two – rounds of price hikes during the pandemic:


  • Sanofi started off the New Year by raising prices on at least 40 medications.
  • Last summer, Sanofi was among a handful of Big Pharma giants that announced new price hikes despite the unprecedented economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sanofi started off the New Year with another round of pandemic price hikes — raising prices on at least 40 medications, including blockbuster eczema drug Dupixent by three percent.
  • Last year, Sanofi was caught exploiting charities to boost the company’s bottom line at the expense of taxpayers. In a settlement, Sanofi was ordered to pay the U.S. government nearly $12 million after the company “used a charity that helps cover Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket drug costs as a means to pay them kickbacks to use a high-priced multiple sclerosis drug,” Reuters reports.
  • Already this year Merck has increased prices at least 14 times, including on blockbuster diabetes medicines Januvia and Janumet.
  • The brand name company also raised the price of HIV therapy treatment Insentress by almost five percent this year.
  • This April, Merck hiked the price of cancer drug Keytruda by two percent.
  • Last year, Merck hiked prices at least 45 times on products in the company’s portfolio.
Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb started off the new year by hiking prices on at least ten medications, including two key 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.
  • Already this year, Amgen has hiked prices 11 times – including on popular drugs Enbrel and Otezla – by an average of more than seven percent.
  • A recent House Committee on Oversight report found that Amgen hiked prices of blockbuster drugs Enbrel and Sensipar in order to meet revenue targets.
  • Price hikes on the company’s cancer drug Neulasta were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of nearly $500 million from 2017-2018 according to ICER.
  • GlaxoSmithKline 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 consequences of the pandemic.
  • In 2020, GSK jacked-up prices 47 times, including on top-selling respiratory drug Trelegy Ellipta.

Read more on Q1 earnings from Johnson & Johnson HERE.

Read more on Q1 earnings from Novartis, Eli Lilly, and Roche HERE.

Stay tuned this week as we continue to monitor Q1 earnings announcements from Big Pharma.