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The drug giants moved in near-perfect synchronicity, raising prices for their top-selling arthritis treatments as though they were opposite-corner gas stations bumping up the price of unleaded.

On Jan. 3, 2013, AbbVie (ABBV) hiked the price of Humira, its blockbuster biologic drug for arthritis and related conditions, by 6.9 percent. A day later, Amgen (AMGN) followed with an identical increase for Enbrel, another biologic used to treat similar patients. The pattern repeated 10 more times between 2014 and early 2018. In every instance, prices of both drugs jumped by nearly the same percentage, usually within days of each other, topping out at the exact same amount, $63,363 per year, according to a STAT analysis of pricing data.


The rapid run-up, almost a 140 percent increase overall, reflects the companies’ clout in a market where patients suffer from autoimmune diseases that shackle them with blinding pain and can make everyday activities — eating, sleeping, raising kids — an ordeal. Humira is the world’s best-selling drug, while Enbrel holds the No. 5 slot, and neither therapy has competition from generic versions known as biosimilars.

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  • One must admire the strategies while vilifying the outcomes. Pharma ups the costs in anticipation of Congress stepping in sooner or later. THEN Pharma can appear to be playing ball by dropping their prices…right back to the previous exorbitant level…and ‘everyone’ is happy…except the consumer, of course.

  • Azar is the fox in charge of the hen house. Any idiot could have predicted that putting one of the criminals in charge, would have increased the looting. What we really need it to revisit and enforce the laws we used to have, regarding price fixing, price gouging, false claims, and monopolies. Pharma paid off our politicians and saw to it that congress took away the funding for enforcement or the remaining laws. The research that helped create these drugs in the first place was funded by the American people. What we have here is profiteering. The public pays for the research, and they privatize the profits. These pharma execs are worse than the Mafia!

    • Yes, the fox is guarding the hen house. Today in the FDA’s announcement about its fight against youth smoking, Dr. Gottlieb said Alex Azar shares his “deep commitment to protecting the health of our nation’s children.” Well, tell that to children and young people with type 1 diabetes (and their parents) who cannot afford insulin. I guess his commitment to children’s health has certain limits, which have a lot to do with which corporation profits from their illnesses. As I recall, he has been against the ACA and advocated its repeal. How is that showing his commitment to children’s health? It boggles the mind.

  • Hmmmmmm. Where have we heard this before?? Let’s see….INSULIN. A drug that was discovered in the 1930s and whose patent was given free to academia. Lockstep 700% price increases for a life-saving drug, vials going from $23 in late 90s to $300+ today, people dying as they try to ration it. And Alex Azar, now HHS head, was at the helm of Lilly when this was happening.

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