Brand-name pharmaceutical companies and health insurers increased their profits in the second quarter of this year, while hospitals and drug distributors had a more difficult run, according to a review of financial documents for 58 publicly traded health care companies.

Between the lines: Drug companies continue to raise their list prices for branded drugs despite the public furor, so they naturally maintained their status as the most profitable sector in health care. Insurers also collected higher profits because fewer people are going to the hospital or doctor, which results in more money staying in their pockets.

Expand chart
Data: Securities and Exchange Commission filings; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
  • Thirteen companies recorded net profit margins of at least 17% in the second quarter of this year, and almost all of those margins were higher when compared with the same period of 2016. Of those 13 companies, 12 were pharmaceutical firms. Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of pricey hepatitis C and HIV drugs, had the largest profit margin at 43%.
  • The big five health insurers — Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group — each scored higher second-quarter profit margins compared with 2016. Cigna's was the highest at 7.9%.
  • The second quarter was extremely tight for AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, the three dominant drug distributors. All of their profit margins dipped below 1% due to falling generic drug prices.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 21,020,216 — Total deaths: 761,393— Total recoveries: 13,048,303Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 5,289,323 — Total deaths: 167,948 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Health: CDC: Survivors of COVID-19 have up to three months of immunity Fauci believes normalcy will return by "the end of 2021" with vaccine — The pandemic's toll on mental health.
  4. Business: How small businesses got stiffed — Unemployment starts moving in the right direction.
  5. Cities: Coronavirus pandemic dims NYC's annual 9/11 Tribute in Light.
  6. Politics: Biden signals fall strategy with new ads.

Harris: "Women are going to be a priority" in Biden administration

Sen. Kamala Harris at an event in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In her first sit-down interview since being named Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris talked about what she'll do to fight for women if elected VP, and how the Democrats are thinking about voter turnout strategies ahead of November.

What they're saying: "In a Biden-Harris administration women are going to be a priority, understanding that women have many priorities and all of them must be acknowledged," Harris told The 19th*'s Errin Haines-Whack.

Facebook goes after Apple

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic.

The big picture: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking.