Pedestrians walk past Pfizer Inc. headquarters (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Trump Attacks Pfizer Over Drug Cost in Latest Dig at Pharma

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Pfizer Inc. should be “ashamed” for raising the prices of its pharmaceutical products, briefly rattling shares of the U.S. drug giant on Monday.

“Pfizer & others should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason,” Trump said in a tweet. “They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe & elsewhere. We will respond!”

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that Pfizer had raised prices on about 100 drugs, following a pattern of regular increases that the company takes each year.

Pfizer said in a statement that the list prices for the majority of its drugs and vaccines hasn’t changed, though it did change the prices on about 10 percent of its products, including some reductions.

Pfizer shares were up about 0.3 percent after rising as much as 1 percent earlier in the day. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index, often used as a barometer for investor sentiment about drug prices, was up 0.3 percent after rising as much as 0.5 percent earlier.

At an event in Washington, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the administration would take action on prices, and seemed to allude to Pfizer in his remarks. Drug companies that increased prices recently “may we’ll be remembered for creating a tipping point in U.S. drug pricing policy,” Azar said.

Trump has promised repeatedly to drive down drug prices, though so far his most-noticed efforts have been using Twitter and stump speeches to call out pharmaceutical companies, rather than enacting major new policies. For example, in August last year he criticized Merck & Co., saying the company was shipping jobs outside of the U.S. while raising prices. And in January 2017 Trump said the drug industry was “getting away with murder.”

Five weeks ago, Trump said that drugmakers would announce “voluntary, massive” cuts in drug prices in two weeks. So far, no such announcement from the industry has happened. Azar has released a list of proposals that could help reduce drug prices, though many would require new laws or regulations to implement.

On Monday, Azar said that action on prices would be forthcoming, since Trump “doesn’t tolerate talk, he demands action.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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