[Ip-health] WSJ MarketWatch: Americans pay 300% more for this prostate cancer drug than much of the rest of the world

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Wed Mar 30 11:20:21 PDT 2016


​Americans pay 300% more for this prostate cancer drug than much of the
rest of the world​
​Published: Mar 30, 2016 8:05 a.m. ET

Medivation used taxpayer-funded grants in research and development of

​By EMMA COURT​ | Reporter

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.

Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug co-licenced by Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc.
4503, -2.08% and Medivation Inc. MDVN, -3.56% was developed at a U.S.
university with grants funded by taxpayer dollars. That gives the federal
government the right to 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 were down 6.1% the day after the letter’s release, with
Astellas stock declining at a slight 2.1%, compared to a 0.9% increase in
the S&P 500.

Astellas said that the $129,000 price tag “fails to reflect what payers or
patients actually pay for the medicine.”

Of the 20,000 patients on Xtandi last year, 81% of the privately insured
paid $300 or less out of pocket per year and 79% of patients on Medicare
had no out of pocket costs a month, the company said in a written
statement, also noting its access program made the drug free for more than
2,000 advanced prostate cancer patients last year.

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, +0.47% ABT, +0.47% 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.

Medivation wrote in an emailed statement that the bid for march-in rights
for Xtandi “does not meet the criteria laid out in the Bayh-Dole Act nor is
it an appropriate way to address perceived pricing disparities in different
health care systems.”

“Furthermore, we believe taking measures such as exercising ‘march-in’
rights would stifle the kind of innovation and collaborations with public
institutions which have resulted in innovative medicines, such as Xtandi,
that have made meaningful clinical improvements in the lives of patients,”
the company said.

Several other advocacy organizations joined 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 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.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Medivation as a
unit of Astellas. It has been corrected.

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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