[Ip-health] MarketWatch: Are Americans being ripped off by Medivation’s $129,000 cancer drug?

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Tue Mar 29 09:13:10 PDT 2016


MarketWatch: Are Americans being ripped off by Medivation’s $129,000 cancer

Published: Mar 29, 2016 12:00 p.m. ET

Medivation used taxpayer-funded grants in research and development of Xtandi

By Emma R. Court

A cancer drug that costs $129,000 a year—more than three times the price in
Japan and Sweden and four times the Canadian cost—has become the latest
subject of public and congressional scrutiny, as 12 representatives joined
nonprofits to call for a public hearing on the drug’s price.

Because Medivation Inc.’s MDVN, -10.69% prostate cancer drug Xtandi was
developed at a U.S. university with grants funded by taxpayer dollars, the
federal government can revoke the patent if the terms are unreasonable,
said the letter, dated Monday.

“We do not think that charging U.S. residents more than anyone else in the
world meets the obligation to make the invention available to U.S.
residents on reasonable terms,” said the letter, which had Sen. and
presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep.
Elijah Cummings among its signatories.

Medivation shares tumbled 10% on the news, and are down 24% in the year so
far, while the S&P 500 has lost 0.4%.

The nonprofits Knowledge Ecology International and the Union for Affordable
Cancer Treatment first petitioned the National Institutes of Health for
such a hearing in a mid-January letter, asking top brass at the Department
of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the
Department of Defense to revoke Medivation’s exclusive patent rights and
allow other licenses.

The NIH has been petitioning for such a move, termed “march-in rights” and
spelled out in the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, in prior years.

In 2004, the agency granted a hearing on the pricing of an antiretroviral
medication put out by Abbott Laboratories ABT, +0.28% ABT, +0.28% but it
decided “the issue of drug pricing is one that would be more appropriately
addressed by Congress, as it considers these matters in a larger context.”

However, Abbott did lower the drug’s price for programs such as Medicaid
and improve its financial assistance programs in the hearing’s wake, the
Monday letter noted.

Several other advocacy organizations joined in on KEI and UACT’s request in
late March, with the congressional letter following a week later.

“Price can be a clear barrier to access for consumers, and despite this law
being in place for over 35 years, the NIH has never used this broad and
powerful authority to protect consumers from excessive prescription drug
prices,” the congressional letter said.

In the ferocious debate about whether drug prices are too high,
pharmaceutical companies often say that the cost finances research and
development of new, lifesaving drugs.

But Medivation, which is the U.S. arm of the Japanese company Astellas
Pharma Inc. 4503, -2.13% can’t invoke that argument in this case, said KEI
founder and director Jamie Love.

“The system’s working great for everyone but the taxpayers and the
patients,” Love said.

The $129,000 cost impedes patient access, he said, “but it also affects
people even when the patient gets access, because the price is too high.”

Medivation did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Zack Struver, Communications and Research Associate
Knowledge Ecology International
zack.struver at keionline.org
Twitter: @zstruver <https://twitter.com/zstruver>
Office: +1 (202) 332-2670 Cell: +1 (914) 582-1428

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