The price of one off-patent cancer medication has raised by 1400% in the last 5 years. Lomustine, a drug designed to treat Hodgkin lymphoma and brain tumors, costs today around $770, in the conditions in which it was priced at only $50 in 2013.
The background of the Lomustine’s price explosion
Lomustine is a medicine discovered 40 years ago but still has no competitor on the market. However, Lomustine was priced at $50 for many years, until 2013 when its price began to rise.
Lomustine was an off-patent medicine which means that the everyone could’ve taken the patent for it. And that’s exactly what happened and since when a new company produces the drug, its price started to go higher and higher.
The new owner and manufacturer, CordenPharma, partnered up with a small Miami business, NextSource, which increased the price of Lomustine, step-by-step since 2013. The CEO of NextSource, Robert DiCrisci, based the price increase on higher development and production costs, higher fees, and on a better beneficial effect of the treatment.
Oncologists avoid prescribing Lomustine
Doctors don’t widely prescribe Lomustine as they are concerned that the companies behind the drug are more interested in profits than in the patients’ health. Doctor Henry S. Friedman, for instance, said that regular patients can’t afford Lomustine without reaching financial liability.
Lomustine is not an isolated case
NextSource is not the only company that raised the price for a life-saving drug. In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim, an AIDS-fighting drug, from $13.75 per pill to $750 per pill, after buying the patent.
Also in 2015, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the patents for Nitropress and Isuprel, two life-saving heart drugs, and raised the prices by 210% and 525% respectively.
The official countermeasure
Since there is a free market and private companies are involved, the FDA can’t dictate the price.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration encouraged other companies to manufacture equivalent medicines in order to counteract the prices increase and to permit more people to get the needed treatment.