Analysis: Brand-name drug prices declined, or rose slightly, in 2021

In 2021, brand-name medicine prices fell—or rose slightly. This is the main finding of Drug Channels’ yearly study of drug prices at ten major pharmaceutical companies.

“When rebates and discounts were factored in, brand-name drug prices declined—or grew slowly—in 2021,” writes Drug Channels Institute CEO Adam Fein. “Consistent with our previous analyses, rebates and discounts reduced the selling prices of brand-name drugs to less than half of their list prices.”

“For 2021, brand-name drug list prices grew by less than 5% at all 10 companies,” says Dr. Fein. “The unweighted average discount off list was 52%, i.e. less than half price. The weighted average brand-name portfolio had list-price discounts of -42% to -75%.”

“As I have pointed out many times, pharma industry perma-critics refuse to accept that brand-name drug prices are falling—or that prescription drug spending is a small and stable portion of overall U.S. healthcare expenditures,” says Dr. Fein.

Drug Channels looked at 2021 pricing reports for Eli Lilly, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, Takeda, and UCB. Net prices declined at six of the 10 manufacturers, but rose at four manufacturers—GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, and Takeda, according to analyses.

“The gross-to-net difference was positive at two companies, leading to the unusual mix of net prices growing more quickly than list prices. At Novartis, for example, the average reduction from list price declined slightly, from -46.8% in 2020 to -45.2%. The unweighted average gross-to-net gap in prices was -4.5%. For 2021, list prices grew by 3.5%, but net prices declined by -1%. Gross-to-net differences ranged from -14.3% to +1.7%. Many of the reports are filled with other fascinating details about the drug channel. For example, Janssen disclosed that it paid an astounding $33.9 billion in rebates, fees, and discounts,” explains Dr. Fein.

Read the full report here.

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