Trump thanks Novartis, Pfizer for not raising drug prices

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Merck became the first drugmaker to voluntarily lower the costs of several drugs after President Donald Trump called out the pharmaceutical industry for raising prices and failing to make healthcare affordable for patients, according to Reuters.

Novartis's decision to hold the line on prices in the United States was voluntary and the company aimed to have a "system that can support breakthrough innovation ... but still ensure affordability".

Germany's Merck KGaA also relented to pressure. "We thought that was prudent, given the dynamic environment we're now in", he said.

Pfizer was expected to raise the cost of its US products by as much as 10%. Novartis, which is dealing with a public relations crisis from its contact with Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, said it is following suit: "We thought that was prudent, given the dynamic environment we're now in", said Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan.

Under direct pressure from Trump, Pfizer Inc, the largest US drugmaker, said it would delay July 1 price increases until the end of the year or until the president's blueprint for lowering drug costs goes into effect.

Trump, who has accused drugmakers of "getting away with murder", thanked Novartis and Pfizer in a tweet this week.

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The New Jersey pharma also said that it would "not increase the average net price across our portfolio of products by more than inflation annually".

Switzerland-based Novartis said on Wednesday it made a decision to forego planned price hikes in June after considering multiple factors.

"We believe that further changes are still necessary to help reduce patient out-of-pocket costs", Merck said in a statement.

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said that he did not have a direct talk with Trump on drug prices but said his company has been speaking to the federal Department of Health and Human Services about Trump's plan.

Drugmakers including Roche and Novartis favour reforms to Medicare's discount drug programme, saying the federal programme originally created to stretch resources has grown inappropriately.

Both Pfizer and Novartis have said that they will not take the price increases that the industry typically takes at the end of the second quarter, and will instead hold off on those increases until next year.

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