[Ip-health] CBC: U.S. drug company sues Canada for trying to lower cost of $700K-a-year drug

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Sep 25 06:13:56 PDT 2015

In Professor Aidan Hollis's analysis (http://keionline.org/node/2306) of
the orphan drug eculizumab (Soliris), Professor Hollis placed attributable
R&D costs that could be allocated to the UK at $40,000 USD to $100,000 USD
per patient.


U.S. drug company sues Canada for trying to lower cost of $700K-a-year drug

Alexion Pharmaceuticals argues federal government cannot limit price of
blood disease medication

CBC News Posted: Sep 24, 2015 4:06 PM ET Last Updated: Sep 25, 2015 7:47 AM

The real cost of the world's most expensive drug 18:06

A U.S. drug company is taking the Canadian government to court for its
attempt to lower the price of what has been called the world's most
expensive drug.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals has filed a motion in Federal Court, arguing that
Canada's drug price watchdog has no authority to force the company to lower
its price for Soliris.

'This is the single greatest threat to pricing of drugs in Canada ever.'-
Amir Attaran, health law expert

The company says in the court documents that the price of Soliris has not
changed since it went on the market about six years ago and that the price
difference between the two countries reflects the difference in exchange
rates between the U.S. and Canada.

The medication is approved to treat two rare blood diseases that affect
about one in every one million people. A 12-month treatment costs about
$700,000 in Canada, while in the U.S. it costs about $669,000.

Both diseases — paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical
haemolytic uremic syndrome (AHUS) — prompt the immune system to kill red
blood cells, causing anemia, blood clots, organ failure and, eventually,

While Soliris is not a cure, it can stop the assault on the body's tissues
and organs. Since patients typically need to take the medication
indefinitely, it can cost tens of millions of dollars over a lifetime.

Due to the high cost, some patients in Canada can't get the drug. Only some
provinces will cover the cost of treatment and there are different criteria
to qualify for coverage in various jurisdictions.

Soliris is the only drug Alexion produces, but it's earned the firm
revenues of more than $6 billion over eight years.

Canada's Patented Medicine Prices Review Board is challenging the cost of
the drug, saying the price could be considered excessive and that it costs
more in Canada than anywhere elsewhere in the world.

The review board launched hearings in June to force Alexion to lower its
price. That could force the company to reimburse Ottawa for past
overpayments and provinces that have covered the drug costs could apply to
recoup some of that money.

Alexion fired back on Sept. 11 by filing a motion in Federal Court, asking
for the review board to be prohibited from going ahead with its hearing —
or from making any order that would affect the price of Soliris.

'Greatest threat' to drug pricing

A University of Ottawa professor who specializes in health law said he was
shocked that Alexion would challenge Canada's authority to regulate drug
prices. If Alexion's case is successful, it could end Ottawa's ability to
control the cost of patented drugs, Amir Attaran told CBC News.

"This is the single greatest threat to pricing of drugs in Canada ever," he
said Thursday.

The company has not yet returned calls for comment.

With files from Kelly Crowe

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