Merck Continues Support for ICER Even as Activist Shareholders Push to Sever the Tie

May 29, 2019 | Drug Pricing, ICER, Merck

Drug Pricing

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) reported that Merck shareholders have been vocal that the industry sponsor should sever ties with the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). One shareholder, David W. Almasi, proclaimed that “ICER bites the hand that feeds it and yet continues to be fed. Since ICER demands that Merck drop the process of its drugs and advocates policies promoting rationed care, there’s no reason Merck should be supporting ICER.” Almasi was addressing the issue with CEO Kenneth C. Frazier at Merck’s shareholder meeting as a representative from the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP).

ICER is controversial and surely there are those that would have nothing to do with them. NCPPR reported that a group of concerned oncologists have claimed that ICER recommendations about drug pricing are based on research that is unscientific, biased and not comprehensive. NCPPR claims that the oncologists are concerned that ICER has relied on “largely inaccurate” assumptions to demand lower prices for certain drugs.

NCPPR mentions that Amgen is not a member and believes they are too focused on drug prices. NCPPR also notes that while Merck was supporting ICER conferences and programs, the organization was also calling for Keytruda drug price reductions.

On the other hand, ICER has a long and prominent membership list. Clearly they can’t all be wrong all the time? There must be some value otherwise the market place would have not supported them for this long.

TrialSite News is not in a position to declare whether there is a “right” or “wrong” here when it comes to drug prices. In fact, we believe that the topic represents an extremely complex area that merits considerable input from a wide variety of stakeholders and interest groups. Clearly, American society has dealt with all sorts of unethical and even illegal behavior on the part of certain industry players—on the other hand, very few can appreciate the extremities of risk drug R&D organizations navigate on a daily basis. Profits are important for shareholders—so are patients—and so are population health outcomes.

We believe in this case, Kenneth C. Frazier has every right to make the types of decision he makes. As CEO of one of the most prominent biopharmaceutical companies on the planet, Mr. Davis must identify, engage and deal with all sorts of conflicting perspectives, opinions and even ideology. To keep open, dynamic and fluid, and harness energies in a way that builds consensus but that doesn’t sacrifice or compromise key principals, represents a core “vocational certainty” associated with title CEO of major company such as Merck. We applaud Mr. Frazier for standing up for a bigger picture where Merck is an active agent for positive value-added contribution to American society and beyond.