Big Pharma Watch: Merck and Pfizer

Oct 29, 2019

Two More Big Pharma Giants Beat Q3 Forecasts After Hiking Prices On Cancer And Arthritis Drugs

Kicking off the final week of Q3 earnings reports, two more brand name giants – Merck and Pfizer – both “easily” beat Wall Street expectations after hiking prices on American patients earlier this year.


  • Merck reported $12.4 billion in sales, marking an increase of 15 percent.
  • Pfizer reported revenues of $12.68 billion.
  • Pfizer’s high profits were driven by “strong sales of cancer drug Ibrance and new heart medicine Vyndaqel,” as well as popular arthritis drug Xeljanz.
  • At the staggering price of $255,000, Vyndaqel raked in $156 million for the company this quarter and is expected to earn close to $1 billion in U.S. revenues for the company.
Both Pfizer’s and Merck’s sky-high, better-than-expected earnings come after the brand name drug makers have continued to hike prices on their products — despite an escalating crisis of prescription drug affordability for millions of Americans. Some examples include:


  • Merck’s expectation-besting revenue in Q3 was driven in large part to sales of cancer drug Keytruda, which beat expectations by 9 percent this quarter. Keytruda was one of five drugs that Merck raised the price of last year.
  • Merck also raised the price of HIV therapy treatment Insentress this summer by five percent.
  • Breakout drug Vyndaqel is estimated to “become among the most costly cardiovascular treatments ever,” according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER).
  • Pfizer raised the price of its blockbuster drug Xeljanz by 9.4 percent this year.
  • Pfizer increased prices on 41 of its drugs in January. This included a five percent increase to Lyrica, Chantix and Viagra.
  • Price hikes on 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.
Pfizer and Merck join other Big Pharma giants, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Novartis, in surpassing earnings expectations while continuing to jack-up prices. Check back tomorrow to see if Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline will continue the trend.