Merck hikes prices of 5 drugs

Merck & Co. raised the list price of five drugs, including its blockbuster cancer treatment Keytruda, in November, despite heightened pressure on drugmakers in the U.S. to lower costs of medications, according to Reuters.

The U.S. drugmaker raised the price of Keytruda by 1.5 percent and its human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil by about 6 percent. Both of those drugs are estimated to bring in billions in sales for Merck this year. The other three treatments that saw increases were vaccines.

The price hikes come after the U.S. drugmaker pledged in July not to raise the average net price of all its medications by more than the inflation rate, under pressure from President Donald Trump. The list price hikes are the first the U.S. drugmaker has made since the pledge.  

"Merck remains committed to responsibly pricing our medicines," Merck spokesperson Pamela Eisele told Reuters. "We will continue to evaluate our portfolio of products to look for opportunities to further reduce costs for patients and the healthcare system."

Ms. Eisele said that the average net price of Merck's drugs fell 1.9 percent in 2017, upholding the pledge.

Many drugmakers, including Pfizer, Roche and Novartis, agreed to freeze price hikes until the end of 2018, under pressure from President Trump. Since that pledge, Pfizer announced Nov. 16 it would raise the prices of 41 drugs in January.

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