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Merck reiterates commitment to reducing patient out-of-pocket drug costs

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has reiterated it’s commitment to responsible drug pricing, pledging not to increase the average net price of its products by more than annual inflation. 

Last year, the company published its second annual Pricing Action Transparency Report, which demonstrated a 1.9 percent decline in net prices across Merck’s US product portfolio. However, this month the firm asserted that “further changes are still necessary to help reduce patient out-of-pocket costs”. 

In addition to not increasing the average net price of drugs in its portfolio by more than annual inflation, Merck also revealed it would lower the price of several medications by 10 percent and the price of its hepatitis C medication Zepatier by 60 percent.

The firm explained the products selected for discounted prices were chosen based on a variety of factors, including the difference between list and actual discounted prices, contractual obligations, and opportunities to broaden treatment. Furthermore, the company pledged to continue evaluating its portfolio with a view of further reducing costs for the healthcare system and patients. 

Drug prices and patient out-of-pocket expenses remain a major issue in the United States and a survey conducted in 2016 found 14 percent of insured Americans had skipped doses or not filled a prescription due to concerns over the cost.  

By revenue, Merck is the fifth largest pharmaceutical firm in the United States, behind Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Roche, and Pfizer. Among the drugs in the Merck portfolio are asthma and allergy product Singulair (montelukast), hypertension drug Cozaar (losartan), and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Remicade (infliximab). 

In the last two years, some of its bestselling products have been cancer immunotherapy medication Keytruda (pembrolizumab), diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin) and the HPV vaccine Gardasil (HPV quadrivalent vaccine).

Drug prices hit the headlines again this month when President Trump took aim at Pfizer after the pharmaceutical firm rolled out a second set of price hikes in 2018. Following the backlash against the firm, Pfizer issued a statement saying it would defer the price hikes, returning prices to the same level they were at before July 1st, 2018.s