2017 – Merck & Co., Inc.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors issue a report by November 1, 2017, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, listing the rates of price increases year-to-year of our company’s top ten selling branded prescription drugs between 2010 and 2016, including the rationale and criteria used for these price increases, and an assessment of the legislative, regulatory, reputational and financial risks they represent for our company.
WHEREAS: IMS Health research cites Americans paid $310 billion (after taxes and rebates) for drugs in 2015, an 8.5 % increase over 2014; while the Cost of Living Adjustment and the Consumer Price Index were both relatively flat at roughly 1.7 % for this same period.
A Bloomberg/SSR Health analysis shows that the U.S. outpaces the world in the cost of branded medications in many cases by a factor of two, while a McKinsey report states prescription drugs in the U.S. cost 50% more than equivalent products in OECD countries.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found one in four people in the U.S. report difficulty affording their prescription medicines and 43% of people in fair or poor health did not fill a prescription, or said they cut pills in half or skipped doses because of cost. Risks of patient non-compliance due to the cost of medicines present a grave threat to public health and, in turn, to the economy.
According to a survey by the National Business Group on Health, “Overall, 80% of employers placed specialty pharmacy as one of the top three highest cost drivers.”
Proposed legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to justify price increases over 10% by disclosing what they spend on research, marketing and manufacturing was introduced in 12 states last year. California’s Proposition 61 would prohibit states from paying more for prescription drugs than the lowest prices negotiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Given the public outcry over unsustainable drug costs, it is safe to assume further regulation on drug pricing is forthcoming.
According to the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, insurers, retailers, hospitals and medical professionals are all increasingly seeking proof of value for high-cost new drug treatments, and justification for increases for branded drugs already on the market.
Drug companies have become a lightning rod for criticism. According to a Kaiser study 74% of Americans said big pharma is too concerned about making money and not concerned enough about helping people. In an NPR Marketplace interview, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty conceded: “There’s no transparency around what the real price of everything is.”
Supporting Statement: Current price increases severely limit access to life-saving medicines, particularly for economically challenged patients: this has serious repercussions for public health and the economy. Given our stated commitment to promoting public health and to mitigating risks, it is incumbent on our company to provide detailed justification for price increases.