The cost of a vital cancer drug has gone up 15-fold in four years after its new owner hiked prices on nine separate occasions.
Lomustine has been used to treat brain tumours, lung cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than 40 years.
In 2013, production of the drug, which was previously called CeeNU, passed from pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb to a Miami-based startup called NextSource Biotechnology. At that point it was being sold for around $50 a capsule. The same dose now costs $768 (£570).
NextSource has increased the price nine times in less than five years. A 20 per cent hike in August was followed by a further 12 per cent rise in November, according to analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Prices of other doses of the drug, which the company has renamed Gleostine, have also been increased exponentially. Although the patent for lomustine has expired, there is no generic version being produced and so NextSource has no competitors to discourage it from raising prices.
Professor Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist at Duke University, said: “This is simply price gouging. People are not going to be able to afford it, or they’re going to pay a lot of money and have financial liability.”