[Ip-health] Alison Kodjak: Modest Price Cut Expected For Generic Version Of Cancer Pill Gleevec

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Tue Feb 2 07:50:08 PST 2016


Modest Price Cut Expected For Generic Version Of Cancer Pill Gleevec
February 1, 20161:44 PM ET

Pharmacies across the U.S. will begin receiving shipments of a generic form
of the revolutionary cancer pill Gleevec this week after the drug lost its
patent protection on Monday.

The generic version of drug, known as imatinib, is likely to cost about 30
percent less than brand-name Gleevec, says Kal Sundaram, the CEO of Sun
Pharmaceuticals, the Mumbai, India-based company that will make the first

Specific prices will be negotiated with insurers and pharmacy wholesalers,
he says.

The launch is one move in the ongoing push and pull over rising drug
prices. More than a dozen major drugs are losing their patent protection
this year, leaving them open to competition from generics.

Still, drug prices overall continue to climb.

When Gleevec was launched by pharmaceutical giant Novartis in 2001 to treat
chronic myeloid leukemia in adults, it was a huge advance in the treatment
of that disease and in cancer therapy overall. The drug has since been
approved to treat other types of leukemia and blood cancers, some rare skin
cancers and some gastrointestinal tumors. Sales last year reached $4.7
billion worldwide and $2.5 billion in the U.S.

While the launch of generic imatinib will undoubtedly cut the price of
treatment, the effect may not be dramatic at first.

Sundaram says he expects his medication to capture about 30 percent of the
U.S. market over the next six months, leaving the rest to branded Gleevec.
After that, generics from other companies may go on sale, which could lead
to even lower prices.

Since Gleevec was launched, Novartis has raised the price of Gleevec often,
nudging it even higher in recent years. The price for one pill climbed from
$92.74 in 2010 to $179.93 in 2014, according to data from Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services, which spent almost $1 billion on Gleevec in

A price cut of 30 percent would bring down the cost of the medicine to
about what it was in 2013.

Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow says the company expects Gleevec sales to
fall "in a similar manner to other major comparable products that have
experienced the loss of market exclusivity."

Sundaram says Sun is planning to support sales of its generic imatinib by
appropriating many of the tactics used by makers of brand-name drug

The company will have a discount card to ensure patients only have to pay a
$10 copay and will cover up to $700 to help patients meet their deductibles.

Drugmakers, including Novartis, offer similar discounts to help keep
patients buying their branded drugs after competing medications go on sale.
Insurance companies often charge patients a higher copay for brand-name
drugs to help steer them to lower costs generics.

Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670

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