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Like a growing number of its peers, Roche Holding AG pledged recently not to raise drug prices for the rest of the year. Thing is, the Swiss company had already done the second of its customary two annual increases.

Roche gave the U.S. government its no-price-rises promise on July 11, the company said in a statement late last week. The health system also needs to focus on "long-term, system-wide solutions that lower costs," Roche said. "We're committed to being part of the solution."

However, Roche had raised the prices of nine medicines in early July by an average of about 3 percent, a spokesman told Bloomberg News later July 20 by email. This included increases for Roche's three best-selling drugs, the oncology blockbusters Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin.

Drug-price data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence and First Databank show that Roche raised the prices of the nine drugs on July 1, after an earlier increase in January. That's a pattern Roche has followed for several years, the data show.

The move shows that as drugmakers rush to respond to price criticism by President Donald Trump, the devil will be in the details. A series of companies have publicly stepped back from price hikes, including Roche, Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc. and Novartis AG. In many cases, however, the actual affect may be less than consumers might imagine, said Sam Fazeli, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

"A lot of it is window dressing," Fazeli said. "It just sounds good."

Merck didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Roche said its U.S. unit's annual average net price increase, weighted by sales, has been about 3 percent for the past several years. That's in line with the medical consumer price index, the company said.

SundayMonday Business on 07/22/2018

Print Headline: Drugmaker Roche raised prices before no-increase pledge

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