Pfizer Raises Drug Prices More Than 5%

Pfizer boosted the average U.S. wholesale prices of its drugs by more than 5%, according to industry analysts, despite increased political scrutiny of the cost of prescription medicines.

Bear Stearns analyst John Boris said in a research note that Pfizer on Jan. 1 had raised prices of its drugs by an average of 5.2%, somewhat more aggressive than price increases taken in each of the previous three years.

Increases of 5% were seen for cholesterol fighter Lipitor, the world's top-selling medicine, as well as for arthritis treatment Celebrex. But Boris said no mark-ups were seen for Chantix and Exubera, recently introduced drugs to help smokers quit and to treat diabetes.

"We would have guessed that Pfizer would raise list prices a bit less given anticipated political pricing scrutiny in 2007," said Merrill Lynch analyst David Risinger, who estimated Pfizer had raised its U.S. average wholesale prices by 5.6%.

Pfizer may have needed to raise prices sharply to make good on its prediction that 2007 revenue will match that seen last year, Risinger said in his research note. The company's once-stellar sales growth has come to a halt largely due to generic competition for a number of its products.

Pfizer spokesman Paul Fitzhenry said the company, which estimates prices on a different basis called wholesaler acquisition costs, had raised prices by 4.7%, after taking into consideration discounts Pfizer offers to some customers on the same drugs.

"This is (only) one component of our revenue performance," he said, referring to the price increases.