Cancer Drug Price Rises 1,400% in Just 4 Years

'Wall Street Journal' examines the jump from $50 a pill to $768 for lomustine
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2017 12:58 PM CST
Cancer Drug Cost $50 a Pill in 2013. Today: $768

The Wall Street Journal illustrates the continuing problem of soaring drug prices by zeroing in on a cancer drug called lomustine. Used to treat brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma, the drug sold for about $50 a pill under the brand name CeeNU as recently as 2013. Then owner Bristol-Myers Squibb sold the drug to manufacturer CordenPharma. After no fewer than nine price hikes via seller NextSource Biotechnology, the drug now sells for $786 a pill under the name Gleostine. One example of the fallout: A patient at Duke University School of Medicine with a brain tumor discovered that his out-of-pocket expenses would be more than $2,800 a month and opted to go without. In this case, a big problem for him and other patients is that no generic alternative exists.

"This is simply price gouging, period," says a neuro-oncologist at Duke. "People are not going to be able to afford it, or they're going to pay a lot of money and have financial liability." The chief executive of NextSource says the price is in line with production costs, fees, and the benefits delivered, adding that patients in need receive discounts. Lomustine has been around since 1976, and the patent has since expired, but it is one of more than 300 such drugs for which no generic version exists, notes the Journal. The story explores the reasons for that, which can be especially pronounced for drugs that aren't widely prescribed—lomustine fits that definition, with just 1,694 prescriptions in 2015 paid for by Medicare Part D prescription-benefit plans. Read the full story. (Read more cancer drugs stories.)

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