Novartis, Merck and Allergan are joining those who are raising US drug prices for 2020

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By Michael Erman

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Novartis AG, Merck & Co Inc and Allergan Plc were among the companies that raised prices for more than 100 prescription drugs in the U.S. on Friday, health research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

That's more than the average of 404 price hikes in the first three days of January in the past five years. Almost all price increases are below 10%, the median of the price increases according to 3 Axis is 5%.

Swiss drug maker Novartis raised prices for nearly 30 drugs, including Cosentyx psoriasis treatment and Gilenya multiple sclerosis drug. Most of these increases ranged from 5.5% to 7%.

Novartis announced that it is increasing list prices of about 7 percent of its U.S. pharmaceuticals, expecting net price declines of 2.5% in 2020 after discounts and discounts for commercial and government payers.

US drug maker Merck increased prices for about 15 drugs, including diabetes medicines Januvia and Janumet, mostly by 5%, 3 Axis said.

The list price for Keytruda's best-selling cancer immunotherapy, which sales are expected to exceed $ 13 billion in 2019, has increased by 1.5%.

A Merck statement said the price increases were in line with its commitment not to increase US net prices by more than annual inflation.

Ireland-based Allergan, which is acquired by AbbVie Inc for more than $ 60 billion, said it increased prices for 25 drugs by 5% and two other drugs by 2-3%. With higher discounts and discounts, however, net prices would be lower across the board in 2020.

Reuters previously reported that Pfizer Inc, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and AbbVie were among the drug companies that had raised prices for more than 330 drugs earlier in the year.

Rising health costs for U.S. consumers, and especially prescription drug prices, are expected to be a key issue for both sides again in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump, a Republican who made it a core promise of his 2016 campaign, is running for re-election in 2020.

Under pressure from politicians and patients, many branded drug manufacturers have committed to keeping annual US price increases below 10% a year.

Prescription drug prices are higher in the United States than in most industrialized countries where governments directly or indirectly control costs, making it the most lucrative market for manufacturers in the world.

Drug manufacturers often negotiate discounts or rebates on their list prices when treated cheaply by insurers and other health care providers. As a result, insurers and insured patients rarely pay the full list price of a drug.

(Reporting by Michael Erman; editor at Bill Berkrot)