Is U.S. Drug Pricing Debate Leaving Europe Feeling Good?

The Wall Street Journal, Money Beat, April 22, 2016
by Helen Thomas

Are the transatlantic tables turning in pharmaceuticals?

Switzerland’s Novartis said this week that it was seeing faster uptake of its heart failure drug Entresto in Europe than in the U.S. The potential blockbuster, which Novartis believes could generate $5 billion in annual peak sales, has been struggling: it sold just $17 million in the first quarter with Novartis guiding to $200 million for the year, well below consensus forecasts.

With heightened focus on the burden of high U.S. drug prices, Novartis said it was getting a better reception in Europe’s single-payer system than in the U.S. for its value-for-money pitch for Entresto, which helps to reduce rates of hospitalization. That would be a real turn-around: for years, pharma companies have benefited from high prices for innovative drugs in the U.S., while struggling in Europe.

The shift may be less dramatic than it seems. Novartis later conceded that Entresto is priced at €5.50 a pill in Europe, about half the list price in the U.S. Of course, no one pays the list price. But Novartis also suggested that its pricing of the drug, which got a nod of approval from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, meant more limited discounts on offer to payers than seen elsewhere.