- Cullman, Alabama


April 28, 2013

Cancer Therapies' Cost Keeps Drugs From Patients, Doctors Say



"We believe that lowering the prices of CML drugs might improve accessibility to treatment and increase treatment adherence, Hagop Kantarjian, chairman of the leukemia department at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and an author of the paper, said in a statement. Reducing the prices would increase the number of patients who live longer because they would be able to continue on the medications, known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors, he said.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which also include medicines such as Novartis AG's Gleevec and Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Iclusig, have helped reduced mortality to 2 percent versus 10 to 20 percent in the early 2000s, the doctors said.

There are expected to be 5,920 new cases and 610 deaths from chronic myeloid leukemia in the U.S. this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Chronic myeloid leukemia is one of the four main types of leukemia in adults. The disease is a slowly progressing blood and bone marrow disease that rarely occurs in children, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Gleevec, the standard treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia patients, started off at a price of $30,000 a year when it was approved in 2001 and has tripled in cost, the doctors wrote.

The majority of U.S. patients pay less than $100 out of pocket per month for Gleevec, according to a statement from Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis. The company also gave Gleevec or its other chronic myeloid leukemia treatment Tasigna free to an average of 5,000 uninsured or underinsured patients every year for the last five years, Novartis said.

Ariad's Iclusig, approved in December for the disease, costs about $115,000 a year, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company said. The article pegs the price at $138,000 annually.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. also has a patient assistance program for its drug, Synribo, to treat the disease, Denise Bradley, a spokeswoman for Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva, said in an e-mail.

The doctors said regular meetings should be scheduled to discuss the societal and political issues that affect drug pricing.

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