Pharmaceutical companies on January 1 returned to the practice of regular price hikes on hundreds of drugs Image Credit: Pexels

Washington, D.C.: Just as the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest conference of the year is set to get under way, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to complain that drugmakers aren’t “living up to their commitments on pricing.”

Despite talk about halting increases and lowering the price on some treatments, pharmaceutical companies on January 1 returned to the practice of regular price hikes on hundreds of drugs. The average increase was 6.7 per cent, according to data analysed by Bloomberg.

Trump’s tweet also said drugmakers were “not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!”

It was unclear if there was an immediate trigger for Trump’s comment on a day in which the president was mostly consumed with messages about the partial federal government shutdown and his demand for funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

The comment was also an awkward contrast to one Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wrote on January 2, praising Trump’s leadership as the reason the pharma industry had announced “smaller and fewer drug price increases.”

Top pharmaceutical executives, investors and analysts are heading to San Francisco for the annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, which runs Monday through Thursday and often features preliminary earnings announcements, product updates and potential deal-making.

Trump has promised to bring down drug prices and in July shamed Pfizer Inc., the biggest US drugmaker, on Twitter. The company then said it would put price increases on hold until this year, when prices will rise about 10 per cent on its pharmaceutical products. A spokeswoman for Azar called Pfizer’s upcoming move, revealed in November, an illustration of “the perverse incentives of America’s drug pricing system.”

Azar has proposed plans to increase third-party negotiation of some drugs in Medicare as well as to benchmark prices the health program for the elderly and disabled pay to the prices paid by other developed countries where such costs are typically cheaper because they are set by the government.