On Message: Big Pharma Executives Double Down On Monopolistic Business Strategy

Executives of three major drug manufacturers – Pfizer, Merck and AbbVie – are doubling down on three drivers of Big Pharma’s business strategy:


  1. Price-Gouging: After agreeing to suspend price increases earlier this year, Pfizer CEO Ian Read told shareholders on the company’s Q3 earnings call that they’re going back to “business as normal” – i.e. continuing to increase already out-of-control prices – next year.
  2. Blocking Competition: AbbVie has increased the price of Humira, the world’s best-selling drug, 12 times over the last five years, action the company has been able to take by continually filing new patents that prevent any competing drugs from coming to market.Despite the emergence of cheaper alternatives that are successfully driving down prices in other countries, AbbVie CFO Bill Chase bragged to shareholders: “You’ve seen us execute very nicely with our legal strategy and the settlements around the U.S. events to delay the onset of [loss of Humira’s exclusivity] into the 2022-2023 time period.”
  3. Blaming Others: Merck CEO Mark Frazier failed to acknowledge the role pharmaceutical companies play in the rise of drug prices and instead suggested looking at other elements of the drug supply chain such as pharmacy benefit managers, even though they “have proven to be the best at keeping drug prices lower than they otherwise would be.”Let’s remember: “Drugmakers set the list price.  Then, it’s up to rest of the drug supply chain – payers, insurers, hospitals, and so on and so forth – to figure out how to pay for it …  When the list price goes up, so does the price you pay.”


With more of a focus on drug pricing than ever before, Congress and the administration will have a rare bipartisan opportunity next year to break Big Pharma’s monopolistic streak.  CSRxP is looking forward to continuing our work with policymakers to advance free-market solutions that boost competition, strengthen transparency and drive down prices for patients. 


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