Are drug price freezes here to stay?

In response to heightened pressure from the government and the public to lower drug prices, many of the world's largest pharma companies have shelved price hikes for the remainder of the year — sparking debate on whether these freezes will make a meaningful difference or if they are just a temporary marketing ploy. 

In July, President Donald Trump slammed pharma giant Pfizer on Twitter, saying the company should be "ashamed" of the decision to increase the list price of more than 100 drugs and treatments. Since the Tweet, several drugmakers — including Pfizer, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Merck, Roche and Bayer — announced plans to postpone or eliminate drug price hikes for the remainder of the year.

Critics are not convinced the changes will last and argue the price freezes are not enough, according to an article posted by Medical Marketing and Media.

David Mitchell, president and founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, describes the price freezes as "PR moves" by the drugmakers that are merely an attempt to turn attention away from themselves as they face public pressure from President Trump.  

"In other words, the drug companies are taking steps to try to turn the heat down on them, and to forestall meaningful action to lower drug prices," Mr. Mitchell told MM&M.

Drug manufacturers will likely return to their old ways as soon as they can, Mr. Mitchell said.

Another expert disagreed.

Sean Sullivan, a healthcare attorney at Alston & Bird who frequently represents pharmacies, said drugmakers won't want to be the first to hike drug prices come January  — especially with the increased media attention on those prices..  

"No drug manufacturer wants to be the test case," Mr. Sullivan said. . "If and when [prices] do increase, I don't think they'll jump back up like crazy, because nobody wants to be the one that makes the news by raising prices in a huge way."

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