Roche Hiked Cancer Drug Price Before Empty Promise To Keep Flat

Swiss drugmaker Roche made an empty promise this week when they pledged on July 11 not to raise drug prices for the rest of the year, reports Naomi Kresge of Bloomberg, right after the company had already completed "the second of its customary two annual increases" on July 1.  

Roche gave the U.S. government its no-price-rises promise on July 11, the company said in a statement Friday. The health system also needs to focus on “long-term, system-wide solutions that lower costs,” Roche said. “We’re committed to being part of the solution.”

However, Roche had raised the prices of nine medicines in early July by an average of about 3 percent, a spokeswoman told Bloomberg News later Friday by email. This included increases for Roche’s three best-selling drugs, the oncology blockbusters Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin. -Bloomberg

Data on drug prices compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence and First Databank reveal that Roche's price increase followed a similar increase in January, and was part of a pattern of hikes conducted over several years.

Trump's crackdown on drug prices

On July 9, President Trump tweeted that Pfizer and others "should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason," warning "We will respond!" 

Following up on Trump's tweet, his administration moved quickly this week to implement several significant components of the White House's plan to bring down drug prices. In response - and after Trump's tweet sent stocks tumbling, drugmakers around the world, from Merck to Pfizer and Novartis, rushed to announce their altruism - committing to temporary price-hike halts in some cases such as Pfizer's - while slashing the cost of various medications in others. 

The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday night submitted a proposal to the White House that would curb kickback exemptions that allow drugmakers to offer insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers rebates widely blamed for keeping drug prices high.


The proposed regulation on rebates sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget would make changes to federal safe-harbor protections that have allowed the discounts. The federal anti-kickback statute allows “safe harbor” to protect normal business practices, an exemption that currently includes PBMs. -Bloomberg

And again, drugmakers' responses were little more than empty promises. 

Merck, for example, announced that they are lowering the price of their $54,600 Hepatitis C treatment Zepatier by 60% - a meaningless announcement considering "that drug has struggled to take market share from expensive rival medications," according to Bloomberg

For context, Gilead had to lower the cost of their 12-week Harvoni HepC treatment from $84,000 to as little as $12,000 in various countries such as Chile, while The Guardian reported in April that nonprofit organization DNDi is working with Egyptian drugmaker Pharco Pharmaceuticals on a $300 a day treatment that showed a 97% cure rate in Phase II/III trials

Also, most insurance companies won't cover people's $84,000 liver fix if they've got HepC but an otherwise healthy liver. Patients must come in with a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C with compensated liver disease, according to Pharmacychecker Blog. 

Given that, Merck's decision to slash their HepC treatment by over half is no surprise. 

In many cases, however, the actual impact may be less than consumers might imagine, said Sam Fazeli, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

A lot of it is window dressing,” Fazeli said. “It just sounds good.” -Bloomberg

Umer Raffat, a New York-based analyst with Evercore ISI told investors in a note that because Merck's new policy looks at average prices across its drug portfolio, it likely leaves room for increases within other treatment lines. While Merck announced that it would cut prices on six of its drugs by 10%, said drugs account for less than 0.1% of Merck's sales.

Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Eric Hargan highlighted some of the Trump administration's moves on Thursday while delivering some tough talk to drug-company executives who comprise the board of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. 

“The blueprint is very real, it’s definitely the president’s blueprint and the sweeping reforms contemplated in it are on the way,” Hargan told the lobby group in a closed-door meeting. “When this president talks about fundamental change to drug markets, he follows through.”


Fedtacular Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:22 Permalink

We are waiting for you to bring the hammer down on big pharma Mr. President. When are you going to stop arresting people for getting their medication from outside the country. 

Heros Fedtacular Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:35 Permalink

Roche are merely harvesting the boomers tumors.  After WWI, Roche, owned by jews, harvested the pain and misery of goyim of both sides who were left crippled after the first world war for Israel.

Having crippled these goyim, and after morphium was outlawed for most general uses, the jew owned Hoffman La Roche company harvested the war cripples by using Switzerland, a nonsignatory, as an island to sell addictive pain killers. 

In reply to by Fedtacular

JBL Sat, 07/21/2018 - 16:35 Permalink

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

  -Adam Smith


Haitian Snackout Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:13 Permalink

Just issue an executive order allowing people to buy from other countries. Then buy some earplugs, or turn off the telly for a couple of years or so. I would imagine the screeching would be a tad loud and relentless.

media_man Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:37 Permalink

Pfizer had been raising the price of Xeljenz by 25% each year since it launched in 2014.  The price has doubled from $2,000 a month to $5,000 a month.   In Canada the price is $1,200 a month.  The drug companies are rubbing our noses in it.  

silverer Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:51 Permalink

The only way to reel these bastards in is to totally eliminate any federal money to purchase these drugs. Because the whole thing is a scam. 70% of prescription swallowers don't even need the meds. For Christ's sake folks, humans have survived 1.5 million years without this shit, and this garbage is way, way over hyped. Just read the side effects panel and understand you are skydiving with a defective parachute.

The Count Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:52 Permalink


The pharmaceutical industry is governed by greed and corruption. Hmmmm, kinda like high finance...!

I know because I worked in both. Believe the CEO or something of Pfizer is on the board of the New York FED.

What a coincidence!

Manipuflation Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:55 Permalink

Here is something that not many know about.  Have you ever heard about the Northern Black Widow Spider?  Probably not.  Mrs. M was tending her flowers last evening and she thought she got stung by a bee at first on her thumb.  It went downhill from there into what she described as beyond childbirth pain.  I've seen her struggle with childbirth and she never cracked but this made her cry.

Bee stings hurt but that goes away after ten minutes or so.  This got worse until Mrs. M's hand was pretty much paralyzed and then it started moving up her arm.  I figured it had to be a spider bite of some sort.  Her hand really started to swell.  I took me a while to figure out what it could have been but now you know.  She had no fun with for it for at least three hours. 

Doctors can't do shit about a black widow bite.  There is no antidote.  Watch out for those little dime sized spiders because they have a huge range and they pack a punch.  They won't kill you in most cases but they can make your life miserable.

I would be interested to see if anyone has actually studied the efficacy of the venom of this spider against cancer cells.  If not that, the brown recluse.  Or better yet, the funnel-web spider of OZ.

Spiders have secrets and most people hate them but they produce some interesting chemistry and none of that chemistry are opiods.  

Amicus Curiae Manipuflation Sun, 07/22/2018 - 06:02 Permalink

if its roaming then it was prob the male of the species whatever it was.

people say that a fast chomp on a vitC tab then spit the paste onto the bite area helps with redback spiderbites in aus

theyre a rellie of the blackwidows.

funnelweb venoms been pretty well  sussed but they are using venoms n toxins from spiders snakes coneshells and jellyfish as pain and cancer possible fighters.

. as always it will be a long process..

and delayed a whole lot if they go n use FDA to bloody get approvals

better to apply EU or anywhere else than in america.

In reply to by Manipuflation

red1chief Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:56 Permalink

This is a supposedly free country, so we need the freedom to purchase these drugs from anywhere in the world at the best price NOW. This is a really sick cartel, pun intended. 

VW Nerd Sat, 07/21/2018 - 19:29 Permalink

Cancer research has yielded some great discoveries in the past decade.  Great results, definitely not.

That said, I have made the personal decision not to make any more donations to the noble cause of cancer research.  Why? Several years ago, I noticed nobody I knew that was stricken with cancer survived more than a year in spite of aggressive and expensive treatments (A friend will be losing his wife in the next month, currently on hospice). In the end, they were dead and the family financially depleted.  I stopped and asked myself why, after six decades and TRILLIONS of dollars of "research", this was the net result?  This is the best they have to offer?

I now believe it is the mindset of the cancer industry (research, medical and pharma) that a cure for cancer would be very bad for business.  They have enriched themselves handsomely over the decades "chasing a cure" and are loathe to do anything to harm their lucrative racket.  Once I see major improvements in effectiveness and, most importantly, affordability for the average working American from the cancer industry, I will consider investing in their efforts once again.

Sorry if I sound like a jerk....

Stan Smith VW Nerd Sun, 07/22/2018 - 02:18 Permalink

    Totally makes sense by the way.    My mother had mouth cancer and was fortunate (so far) that laser removal / destruction of the tumors has seemingly eliminated it.  

    To me, the cure for cancer is not unlike the medical industry general.    If people aren't ill, sick, or hurting... what good are they?    Which to me makes it even crazier when you consider that medical bills are the #1 reason for bankruptcies in this country currently.   

    This is really criminal, except it's legal because these industries have lobbying power out the yin-yang because of all the cash coming in.

    I don't remotely know the answer to all of this though.    A lot of very wealthy and protected people are doing a hell of a lot to keep it that way though.


In reply to by VW Nerd