Mar 14, 2022

Congress Can Refocus Attention on Market-Based Solutions to Crack Down on Brand Name Drug Companies’ Egregious Pricing Practices


Lawmakers have an important opportunity this week to refocus attention on the urgent need for market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices. On Wednesday, March 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing, “Prescription Drug Price Inflation: An Urgent Need to Lower Drug Prices in Medicare.”

Lawmakers must use this opportunity to reestablish momentum behind solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable for the industry’s egregious and anti-competitive pricing practices that have created a crisis of affordability for millions of Americans.

Ahead of this critical hearing, get some of the latest facts on how Big Pharma’s price hikes boost brand name drug companies bottom line while negatively impacting patients, taxpayers, and the health care system.


In January of this year alone, Big Pharma hiked prices on 791 brand name medications, including treatments for serious conditions like cancer and HIV. Big Pharma companies among those hiking prices to start the year included:

  • Pfizer hiked prices on more than 100 drugs, including a whopping 16.8 percent price increase on its popular drug Solu-Cortef which treats various conditions such as arthritis, blood diseases, and certain cancers.
  • GlaxoSmithKline raised prices on more than 30 drugs, with cancer drug Zejula and seizure drug Lamictal topping the list with seven percent price increases each.
  • Bristol Myers Squibb raised prices on more than a dozen of their drugs.
  • Gilead Sciences raised prices 5.6 percent on HIV drugs Biktarvy and Descovy.

Big Pharma traditionally hikes prescription drug prices in two major batches each year — the first starting in January and the second starting in June. In January 2021, Big Pharma raised the list price of 822 brand name prescription drugs by an average of 4.6 percent. Then, in June and July 2021, Big Pharma hiked prices on 67 brand name prescription drugs by an average of 3.5 percent.


Big Pharma’s never-ending price hikes are outpacing inflation — escalating the crisis of affordability for Americans who face financial uncertainty purchasing their medications and imposing heavy costs on taxpayers. A recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found Big Pharma hiked prices faster than the rate of inflation on 23 of the top 25 most popular prescription drugs in the Medicare Part D program in 2020. Big Pharma’s faster-than-inflation price hikes included all three of the top drugs for highest gross spending in the Part D program, Eliquis, Revlimid and Xarelto. Drug companies’ price hikes also outpaced inflation on 16 of the top 25 best-selling drugs in the Medicare Part B program.

The analysis also found drug prices for half of all drugs covered by the Medicare program increased faster than the rate of inflation between 2019 and 2020, including half of all drugs covered in Medicare Part D (50 percent of 3,343 drugs) and nearly half of all drugs covered in Part B (48 percent of 568 drugs). Among drugs covered by Part D with price hikes exceeding inflation the median increase was 5.6 percent, and among those covered by Part B the median increase was 5.4 percent.

A 2021 report from AARP Public Policy Institute found that between 2019 and 2020, retail prices for 260 widely used brand name prescription drugs increased by 2.9 percent, more than two times faster than general inflation (1.3 percent).

A separate report from AARP Public Policy Institute found that total Medicare Part D spending on 50 top brand-name drugs was $38 billion higher between 2015 and 2019 than it would have been if drug manufacturers had not increased their prices faster than the corresponding rate of inflation.


Voters overwhelmingly view out-of-control prescription drug prices as a top political issue in the upcoming midterm elections and want policymakers in Washington act on repeated promises to lower prices and hold Big Pharma accountable.

In a February poll commissioned by CSRxP, 87 percent of U.S. voters said the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for out-of-control drug prices. 91 percent of voters said drug prices were an important issue for them in the upcoming midterm elections and more than three-in-four said it would impact their vote if Congress failed to pass solutions to lower drug prices.



  • AbbVie launched another round of major price hikes to start the year, hiking prices on more than ten prescription drugs, including blockbuster arthritis drugs Humira, Rinvoq and Skyrizi, as well cancer treatment Imbruvica – both by 7.4 percent.
  • This follows 7.4 percent price hikes at the start of last year, on the same prescription drugs.
  • AbbVie has a history of price gouging on the company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug, Humira.
  • Humira’s price has almost doubled since 2012, from about $19,000 to $38,000.
  • AbbVie currently holds over 130 patents on Humira in the United States, blocking competition for up to 39 years.
  • According to ICER, price hikes on AbbVie’s Humira were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of more than $1.8 billion from 2017 to 2018.


  • Sanofi hiked the price of its blockbuster asthma and eczema drug Dupixent by four percent in January, along with hiking prices on 42 additional prescription drugs.
  • Sanofi hiked prices on multiple sclerosis drug Aubagio and rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara by 5.7 percent at the start of the year.
  • Sanofi was among the Big Pharma companies who chose to raise prices last July, doing so on key medications in the company’s portfolio despite the unprecedented economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2020, 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 reported.


  • Merck hiked prices on nearly 30 prescription drugs in 2022, including a five percent increase on neuromuscular blockade drug Bridion.
  • Merck increased prices 20 times in 2021, including on blockbuster diabetes medicines Januvia and Janumet – both by five percent.
  • The brand name company also raised the price of HIV therapy treatment Isentress by almost five percent last year.
  • Merck’s blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, which brought in $4.58 billion in Q4, is on track to become “the highest-selling drug in the world and would be a Fortune 200 company on its own.”
  • In 2020, Merck hiked drug prices at least 45 times.

Eli Lilly 

  • Eli Lilly rang in the new year with more than a dozen price hikes, including a five percent increase on top-selling diabetes drug Trulicity.
  • In 2021, Eli Lilly was among the Big Pharma giants that announced new price hikes despite the unprecedented economic uncertainty facing millions of Americans grappling with the pandemic.
  • This past summer, Eli Lilly increased the price of two of its cancer drugs – Cyramza and Alimta.
  • In 2020, Eli Lilly increased drug prices over a dozen times.

Read more about why Big Pharma’s bogus rhetoric on innovation doesn’t add up HERE.

Read more about the cost of Big Pharma’s patent abuse HERE.

Read more about American voters’ overwhelming support for solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.

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