Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All

Pharmaceutical companies freezing prices out of fear is fine but has nothing to do with truly bending the cost curve. - Sanders DiPiero

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, Wednesday edition.

While you were focused on the fallout from President Trump's walkback of his walkback, Novartis decided to freeze drug price increases, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won't give up on Kentucky Medicaid work requirements, and House Democrats launched a Medicare for All caucus. Worry not. We'll get you caught up. We'll start with some drug pricing news:

Novartis pulls back on planned drug price increases

Taking a cue from Pfizer, Novartis on Wednesday became the second company to announce it won't raise drug prices this year. During a call with investors, CEO Vas Narasimhan said the decision was made because of the uncertainty surrounding the administration's drug pricing blueprint.

"We looked in June at the overall situation, the blueprint coming out, and we made the decision prior to some of the recent events that we were going to withdraw any further price increases, and make a commitment internally that we were not going to make any further price increases for the remainder of 2018," Narasimhan said.

The fine print: Just like Pfizer, Novartis isn't actually doing anything to LOWER prices, they're just freezing them. For now.

President Trump has been complaining about high drug prices since he was on the campaign trail, and Novartis and Pfizer have certainly raised prices on some of their products since then. Advocacy groups are not impressed, saying they want actual price cuts, not just delays of increases.

Why it matters: Novartis was already in hot water with the public after emails released by Democrats last week showed the company had a more extensive relationship with ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen than previously revealed. The announcement could be little more than a PR move or a way to curry favor with the administration.

What's next: Watch to see if other drug companies follow Pfizer and Novartis on this.



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