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Pfizer CEO on drug pricing: it's a real issue in the U.S.

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In an interview with Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla discusses drug pricing in the U.S. and the total cost of medicines to the healthcare system.

Video Transcript

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Obviously, drug pricing is on everyone's minds. And they've heard some of your responses to broadly speaking the topic. But I wonder on the specific point of price increases, annual or regular increases, do you think that there needs to be some sort of curbing or some sort of regulatory oversight into how quickly and how much prices increase?

ALBERT BOURLA: You know, the issue of drug pricing is a real issue in the U.S. But it is not the issue that some people think and present. This-- the total cost of medicines to the health care system represents 12%. This is how much the employer, this is how much Medicare pays to us in terms of how much it pays to hospitals, physicians, everybody else. So by definition, this cannot be the big problem when we are 12%.

And by the way, it's going down, not up. For example, in the first six months, Pfizer reported -5% in net pricing of U.S. medicines, in the U.S. business. And it was minus also the years before. So that's not the problem. But I'm sure that our patients, the patients that are taking our medicines, didn't experience this -5%. Experienced 2, 3, 5, 10, 20% sometimes increases in how much they have to pay, what is their participation for the cost of the medicine? Because the two are not connected.

We have a problem here. The Americans are paying for their medicines like if they don't have insurance, although they do have insurance. And this needs to change. This needs to make sure that this will not be the case moving forward. I'm sure that if they have to pay less, that will be a cost. And the system will have to absorb a cost. Who is paying for that cost?

I'm willing, we are willing, the pharma industry, to participate and pay our fair share, pay even more than our fair share as long as everything that we provide goes to release patients from there out of work. Where we disagree, it is policies that will take all the money from the pharmaceutical industry and move them to the black hole of the federal budget to do other things. This is not the issue right now.

The issue is the out of pocket of patients, which is very very high. That's what we need to address. If there are other projects that also are much needed, like the infrastructure project. I agree that everybody should contribute based on some rationale, but not necessarily that we target the pharma industry to fix the infrastructure, which targets corporate America, which targets everyone who can contribute.

So that we can resolve the infrastructure, everything that the pharma industry is giving extra on top of what needs to go to release the out of pocket of the patients. It needs to make medicines affordable.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Definitely. Well, I wish that you and I could solve that problem together here. But, unfortunately, we're--

ALBERT BOURLA: Why don't they try it?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: --out of time.

[LAUGHTER]