You can add Mylan Laboratories to the list of drug makers boosting prices by big amounts.
Over the past six months, the company, which is one of the world’s largest purveyors of generic medicines, raised prices more than 20 percent on two dozen products. And Mylan also boosted prices by more that 100 percent on seven other products, according to Wells Fargo analyst David Maris, who called some of the price hikes “exceptionally large.”
For instance, he cited a 542 percent increase for ursodiol, a generic medicine used to treat gallstones. There was also a 444 percent increase for metoclopramide, a generic drug that treats gastroesophageal reflux disease; and a 400 percent boost in the price for dicyclomine, which combats irritable bowel syndrome. Mylan also raised the price of its tolterodine overactive bladder drug, one of its biggest products in the United States, by 56 percent.
The price hikes occur amid ongoing turmoil over the cost of medicines. As we noted Thursday when writing about recent Pfizer (PFE) price increases, the focus has largely been on newer medicines for such hard-to-treat diseases as hepatitis C and some forms of cancer, but concerns have extended to some generic drugs, which have traditionally been lower-cost alternatives.
The issue exploded last year, when two companies — Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Turing Pharmaceuticals, which was led at the time by Martin Shkreli — were vilified for buying medicines and then jacking up prices by sky-high percentages. The growth strategy prompted congressional scrutiny and made drug pricing a talking point in the ongoing presidential campaign.
Maris noted the drugs for which Mylan raised prices considerably are a relatively small portion of its business. Still, he posited that in this environment, huge prices are “beacons for scrutiny.” He added, however, that he does “not believe the price increases come without a real cost to patients, and if this turns to headline risk, there could be an impact to reputation and shareholders as well.”
Indeed, his note may have contributed to a dip in Mylan stock, which is down more than 3 percent in midday trading.
A Mylan spokeswoman sent us a note saying the company “has always been known to have one of the industry’s broadest and most globally diversified business models and portfolios, which we have successfully managed by balancing numerous variables, including the natural price reductions that have always been inherent to the generics industry.
“A flawed analysis focusing on a small number of products out of the more than 1,400 products Mylan sells globally and the approximately 600 products we sell in North America is simply self-serving and misleading to investors,” she added. “This is especially true given that these generic products represent an extremely small percentage of Mylan’s approximately $4 billion North American generics business. Mylan’s business model is not today, nor has it ever been, premised on price hikes.”