​Price Of Cancer Drug Rises 1,400 Percent As Company Raises Cost For Ninth Time In Four Years

You expect the occasional price hike with most things in life, but not to the extent that the cost of something rises 1,400 percent (or 15-fold) - especially when it's a vital cancer drug.

That's what's happened with the cost of a cancer drug that's used to treat brain tumours, lung cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma for over 40 years now.

In 2013, production of the drug - which used to be called CeeNU - passed from global biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb to Miami-based start-up NextSource Biotechnology.

At the time, the drug cost about $50 (£37) for a capsule. But since NextSource took over the reins, the price has been increased nine times in just four years - and now the same dose costs a staggering $768 (£570).

A 20 percent price hike in August was followed by a further 12 percent rise in November, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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."

Credit: PA

NextSource's chief executive, Robert DiCrisci, said in a statement that the company bases its pricing on development costs, regulatory agency fees and the benefit the drugprovides to patients, the Wall Street Journal reports. He also said that the company gives those without health insurance and patients with financial limitations a discount on products.

The patent for the drug, which is now known as Lomustine, has actually expired - but there are currently no generic alternatives available, meaning NextSource can pretty much charge whatever the hell it wants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now trying to encourage more competition for drugs like lomustine - as it's one of 319 drugs where the American patent has expired, but has no generic copies. The FDA has said it will even speed up the review of any such applications, so that it can help lower drug prices.

However, according Chip Davis, president and CEO of generic-industry trade group Association for Accessible Medicines, generic drug makers may be put off by the fact that many drugs on the FDA's list are for small patient populations. That's companies have to work out if it's worth the investment.

But he did also add that the FDA's steps are at least a move forward, and may entice more companies to turn their attention to older drugs.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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