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Many drug companies have conceded that the days of super-sized price increases, which sometimes occurred multiple times per year, are gone for now. President Trump's rhetoric around price controls and public outrage over high drug costs have forced the industry to soften, as it heavily lobbies politicians behind the scenes.

So does that mean the drug industry will lose a lot of money? Not really. First-quarter reports show many of the largest pharmaceutical companies increased their profits compared with the same period last year. Sales of some drugs lagged, but companies still hiked list prices by high single digits — well above general inflation.

Expand chart
Data: Company earnings reports; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

A handful of major pharmaceutical firms reported higher first-quarter earnings this week. Part of that was due to cutting back on operating expenses, like research and marketing, but list prices were also raised for many drugs.

  • Amgen: Profit jumped 9%, surpassing $2 billion, even though sales declined. Amgen raised the list price of its major rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel by 8.4% in January, according to data obtained by Axios, as a way to offset competing drugs.
  • AbbVie: Profit soared 26%. Arthritis blockbuster drug Humira, which got an 8.4% list price boost in January, continues to be the company's biggest earner.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb: A 32% jolt to earnings came thanks to big sales of cancer drug Opdivo.
  • Celgene: First-quarter profit almost hit $1 billion as demand for multiple myeloma drug Revlimid took off. Celgene raised the list price of Revlimid by 8% in January.
  • Biogen: Sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera basically stayed the same despite an 8% price hike in January. Biogen's profit declined, but it was still around three-quarters of a billion dollars.
  • Eli Lilly: Lost money due to severance and acquisition costs, not because people weren't buying their drugs.

Go deeper

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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