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Expand chart
Data: Company filings; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A majority of the health care industry's profits in the first three months of 2019 went to the top 10 companies, and 9 of those 10 companies were pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to Axios' quarterly analysis of industry financial reports.

The bottom line: Quarter after quarter after quarter shows drugmakers continue to wield the highest profit margins in the industry even though the political and public uproar over drug prices has somewhat dampened their stocks.

Between the lines: Nothing has fundamentally changed for drug companies even though the Trump administration is tinkering with ideas on how to lower what people pay for their prescriptions.

  • Drug companies are charging more for their patent-protected medicines at prices that are well above what it costs to make them, and/or they are selling more of their drugs overall.
  • The insulin made by Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, Merck's cancer drug Keytruda, and Pfizer's breast cancer pill Ibrance epitomize this growth of sales and prices.

By the numbers: Investors have soured a bit on health care, including pharma, but the numbers don't lie.

  • 12 of the most profitable drug companies in Q1 collectively reported more than $29 billion in profits.
  • A dozen companies had net profit margins above 30% in the first quarter, 9 of which were pharma firms. Alexion Pharmaceuticals' margin was 52%, one of the highest margins in the industry after accounting for odd, one-time items.

Yes, but: Our analysis does not include financial statements of not-for-profit hospitals, due to their protracted reporting patterns, and there are a lot more hospitals in the country than drug companies.

  • Hospitals represent the largest share of health care spending, and an initial look at the not-for-profit systems' first-quarter reports shows net income has been increasing.
  • Negotiating power over private health insurers has allowed the dominant hospital systems to maintain or grow their wealth.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.