Lomustine has been used for over 40 years by medical professionals to treat brain tumours, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer. Despite being such a vital drug for cancer treatment, it’s feared that it could result in patients being unable to afford it in the future due to the hike in prices from its manufacturers.
Despite the fact that the patent for the drug has now expired, a generic version is yet to be produced and NextSource are still the sole supplier of the drug, meaning there’s no incentive for them to be competitive with their prices. As a result of this, the cost of lomustine has rocketed over the last few years, with its supplier raising prices on nine occasions and the current price being 15 times higher than it was four years ago.
Soaring prices for cancer treatment are an ongoing concern for both doctors and patients, and NextSource are one of several companies to excessively increase their prices in the last few years. In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals came under fire for increasing the cost of Aids medication Daraprim by over 5000%, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals were heavily criticised across the medical profession for raising the price of heart drugs Isuprel (525%) and Nitropress (212%).
CEO of NextSource, Robert DiCrisci, defended the decision to increase prices; saying that based on the ongoing development costs of the medication, higher regulatory fees and the massive benefits it provides to thousands of patients, the company still believe the prices it charges are fair and reasonable. He added that the company provides discounts and other assistance on products to those who are struggling to afford it and don’t have health insurance.
It’s also feared that the cost could lead to delays in patients seeking treatment due to the financial pressures. Professor Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist at Duke University, warned of the possible implications of such a steep increase in prices. He said “This is simply price gouging. People are not going to be able to afford it, or they’re going to pay a lot of money and have financial liability.”
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that, based on the prices of t 24 patented drugs, prices increased by an average of 18% annually over the last eight years. And even more worryingly, these prices continued to rise even when generic versions of the drugs had been produced, approved and made available for sale. It also seems that it’s the patients who are suffering the most from the price hikes, with manufacturers charging six figure sums for treatments. It’s feared that many are losing out on life-saving treatment due to delays and excessive costs for drugs.