Price gouging? Cancer drug price spikes from $50 to $768 per pill after change of owner

A long-standing medication for cancer has become almost unaffordable for most of patients, as its price has skyrocketed 1,500 percent over four years. The company behind the drug is under fire.

The remedy for brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma was introduced 42 years ago, and the highest dose was sold for $50 per capsule. The drug, called lomustine had no generic alternative and was branded as CeeNU.

In 2013, the brand’s owner Bristol Myers Squibb sold lomustine to a Miami startup called NextSource. The new owner rebranded the drug, giving it a new name – Gleostine, and multiplied the price by almost sixteen times. Now, the same treatment costs $768 for a single capsule.

According to an analysis done for the Wall Street Journal by Truveen Health Analytics and Elsevier, the company raised the price for Gleostine by 12 percent in November following a 20 percent increase in August.

Dosage is assigned by a patient’s weight with some of them needing more than one pill. That makes the medication’s price point entirely out of reach.

NextSource sets prices based on the costs it bears to develop the medication and to pay regulatory agency fees, as well as on the benefits it provides patients, according to the company’s CEO Robert DiCrisci, as quoted by the media. The firm reportedly provides discounts and financial assistance to those who can't afford its cost.

Though the medicine has been in use since 1976, oncologists along with pharmacies have a renewed interest in it, as government-funded research revealed that Gleostine combined with chemotherapy can help patients struggling with brain tumors to live longer.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly started a campaign to provide a more competitive field for the medicines that have no current generics. Approving generic drugs is a top priority for the FDA. Earlier this week, the agency’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the FDA had approved a record number of generic drugs.

This year #FDA approved a record number of generic drugs. For the 11 months from Jan-Nov FDA gave 771 full and 168 tentative generic approvals. Plus, the Dec total is still to come. That compares to the second highest record, in 2016, with a 12-month total of 630 full approvals

— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) December 25, 2017

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