Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Wall Street Fueling Drug Price Hikes, Not Benefit to Patients as Claimed by Ariad & Other Drug Companies

Wall Street Fueling Drug Price Hikes, Not Benefit to Patients as Claimed by Ariad & Other Drug Companies | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

At a time when drug makers are under intense scrutiny for their pricing, Ariad Pharmaceuticals does not appear to have any concerns about continually raising the price of an already expensive medicine.


Since the beginning of the year, the company raised the price of its Iclusig chronic myeloid leukemia treatment four times, which has amounted to a cumulative increase of 27 percent. As a result, the drug now has a list price of $16,560 a month, or almost $199,000 a year, before any rebates or discounts. And Ariad had also raised the price twice last year.


In explaining the rising prices, an Ariad spokeswoman [said] the company assesses “pricing based on a range of factors, including efforts to make sure that pricing appropriately reflects the benefit the therapy delivers to patients and to the healthcare system. We believe that our pricing actions also consistently reflect our significant investment in R&D and our ongoing commitment to the patient population we serve through our medicines.”


Interestingly, the price hikes, which were first reported by TheStreet, began a year after a labeling change that restricted usage to a smaller patient population. In December 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Iclusig for patients who did not respond to other treatments. But a subsequent health scare prompted the agency to restrict its use.


In October 2013, the FDA began investigating reports of serious and life-threatening blood clots and severe narrowing of blood vessels, and asked Ariad to suspend sales. Two months later, the agency allowed the company to resume marketing, but as TheStreet pointed out, usage was then limited to only certain patients with a genetic mutation that made them resistant to other drugs.


At that time, the list price was $10,350 for a month’s supply of 45 mg tablets, which was the recommended dose, but Ariad later took two price hikes in 2015 that brought the cost to $11,950, according to Truven Health Analytics. As we noted, the company then began raising the price still more this past January.


“This drug has a tattered history,” said Dr. Peter Bach, who heads the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “If the drug works well and has a good side effect profile, it should have a higher price. But there have been signals about problems. So both of things can’t be true, yet there’s no downward pressure on price. They just decide what they think they can get away with and serially raise the price every few months.”


These price hikes, however, are fueling Wall Street.


Analysts, not surprisingly, want to know whether the drug maker can meet revenue and profit expectations. “If Ariad is able to meet or exceed product guidance for Iclusig this would move the stock higher, given strong execution in both US and EU given prior concerns about safety and competition,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee wrote in an investor note shortly after a July price hike.

Pharma Guys insight:

So, let me get this straight. FDA limits the drug to fewer patients and then the company raises prices? Coincidence? I think not. It's a flat out effort to reach the revenue target ex[ected by investors. The company spokeswoman should have said "We believe that our pricing actions consistently reflect our ongoing commitment to the investors & corporate leaders we serve through our high-priced medicines.” Hardly putting patients first.

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ARIAD Pharmaceuticals' Public Twitter Policy

ARIAD Pharmaceuticals' Public Twitter Policy | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

ARIAD, like many biopharmaceutical companies, is in the process of engaging in conversations via new social media channels like Twitter.

About @ARIADPharm:
  • Welcomes your mentions/replies and we’ll do our best to respond to most questions. We will not respond to personal attacks, foul language, disparaging comments or topics that do not relate directly to the company. We may not be able to respond to your questions immediately and some responses may be limited in nature.
  • May not be able to address some questions/comments, including questions directly related to financial matters, ongoing legal matters, regulatory issues or certain other elements of our business.
  • Hopes that your contributions will add value to the overall dialogue and we appreciate you providing links or other resources to support any claims.
  • Any personal medical issues should be addressed with your physician rather than the Twitter account, which is not moderated by clinicians.
  • Twitter accounts that ARIAD follows or is followed by do not indicate an endorsement of the account owner or their products and services.
  • ARIAD may provide links or references to other sites as part of its Tweets. However, ARIAD claims no responsibility for the content of such other sites and shall not be liable for any damages or injury arising from that content. Any links to other sites are provided as merely a convenience to the users of this platform.
Pharma Guys insight:

Back in June, 2014, I praised Aruad: "It's refreshing to see a social media policy published by a pharma company. I recently praised Boehringer Ingelheim's video social media policy (see Gefällt Mir! Boehringer Ingelheim Invites Two-Way Communication Via Social Media). Most large pharma companies (e.g., Pfizer) do not do this although they boast of having policies that the public cannot access (read Pfizer, Show Us Your Social Media "Playbook")."


But since the company raised the price of its leukemia treatment 4 or more times in a year to meet investor expectations (read Wall Street is Fueling Drug Price Hikes, Not "Benefit to Patients" as Claimed by Ariad & Other #pharma Companies;, I have to reconsider how I rate the social media savviness of pharma companies and bring into it their general attitude towards patients as well. 

MedHawk's curator insight, June 25, 2014 1:30 PM

Social media is changing the nature and atmosphere of health care interface between customers and pharmaceutical companies. The transformation of information gathering and the emergence of the engaged patient has demonstrated the increased importance of social media in the broader healthcare context. ARIAD, like many biopharmaceutical companies, is currently in the process of establishing conversations via Twitter.


It is apparent that a growing percentage of today’s patients are increasingly using digital tools as part of their overall health maintenance. In a recent survey, 51% of patients say they’d feel more valued as a patient via digital health communications, and another survey indicates that 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of healthcare provider.


These communications are important for pharmaceutical companies to have more understanding and awareness of what is important to the patients and those whose lives are affected by cancer. For ARIAD, social media allows customers to ask questions anonymously without feeling embarrassed to ask. This is a key technique to establish consumer trust for the company.