Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cancer patients denied drugs due price

No doubt many have read of the recent price gouging by a pharmaceutical company. Couldn’t happen here, we believe.

Patients in the UK have been told the NHS will not pay for two such drugs because they are not cost-effective and they have been dropped from the list reimbursed by the government’s special cancer drugs fund.

The price of lapatinib (brand name Tyverb), for breast cancer, was set at $36,000 (£24,000) per patient per year in the UK but costs $17,724 in Thailand. Dasatinib (Sprycel), for leukaemia, was priced at $33,739 in the UK but at $15,423 in Brazil.

The researchers also ask why the UK is not succeeding in obtaining better discounts from drugs the NHS does use. Even some other high-income countries manage to barter the manufacturers down to lower prices than in the UK. Imatinib (Gleevec) – for leukaemia and some other cancers – costs $31,867 in the UK but $28,675 in France and just $8,370 in Russia. Sorafenib (Nexavar), for liver cancer, costs $57,232 in the UK but $49,715 in Spain and $44,543 in France.

“If these cancer drugs could be introduced to the UK at these lower prices, they would be affordable and patients could benefit from them. For example dasatinib, used to treat leukaemia, is being sold in Brazil at less than half the UK price, and the cost price of production is 99% lower than the UK price.” Too many people assumed that the high price of new medicines was non-negotiable. “What doesn’t seem to come out is that the price is a flexible concept and prices can come down.

Generic production of the drugs in India, where the patents at the time did not apply, brought prices down from $10,000 per patient per year to just $100. Generic versions of the class of cancer drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) could bring the prices down to $126-212 for imatinib, $236 for erlotinib, $1,387 for sorafenib, $4,022 for lapatinib and $334 for dasatinib. “Mass production of generic antiretrovirals has saved millions of lives for people with HIV/Aids. There is the potential to repeat this medical success story for the treatment of cancer,” Hill and colleagues say.

“The pharmaceutical companies who developed these drugs are making vast profits every year, and so could afford to sell their drugs more cheaply…The majority of spending from pharmaceutical companies is on advertising and marketing, not on R&D as they claim. So the normal justification that high drug prices are required to sustain high R&D costs is hard to defend,” said Dr Andrew Hill from Leicester University.

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