Everyone is screaming about drug prices. They're too damn high! Drug spending is going to bankrupt the health care system. Raising the price of drugs multiple times per year is unconscionable and unsustainable.
How are biotech and pharmaceutical companies responding to all the criticism? They're raising drug prices even more.
And increasingly, nearly all of the surplus revenue generated from those price hikes is staying with the drug companies instead of being extracted by insurers and pharmacy benefits managers in the form of higher rebates, said Leerink Partners analyst Geoff Porges.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) reported strong first-quarter sales in its pharmaceutical business Tuesday for this very reason, Porges said. He believes Amgen (AMGN - Get Report) , Biogen (BIIB - Get Report) , Gilead Sciences (GILD - Get Report) and perhaps Celgene (CELG - Get Report) could do the same when they report first-quarter earnings. Biogen is the first large-cap biotech company to report earnings on Thursday.
"The price increases for established brands across our coverage have been substantial indeed. To the surprise of many investors, it now appears these price increases are likely to flow through to actual sales growth, with such growth more than offsetting any volume weakness in 1Q, and resulting in significant positive revenue surprises for these companies when they report 1Q results," Porges wrote in a research note Wednesday.
In other words: Take that, Hillary Clinton!
Porges analyzed J&J's first-quarter sales results, particularly for its specialty pharmaceutical drugs Simponi, Stelara and Remicade, and found 70%-90% of list price increases taken over the past year are flowing through to reported sales. In some cases, J&J captured 100% of the price increase as sales.
In other words, efforts by insurers and PBMs to negotiate higher discounts or rebates on specialty pharmaceutical products isn't keeping pace with the price increases pushed through by drug and biotech companies. Likewise, politicians ranting about outrageously high drug prices aren't having a moderating effect on industry practices -- at least not yet.
The net result should be better-than-expected sales, Porges said.
Over the past year, the cumulative price of Amgen's drugs has risen 8%-28%. Gilead has raised the price of its HIV drugs from 10%-18%. Celgene's drugs have increased in price by 10%-28%, while Biogen price hikes totaled 10-18%, according to Porges.