Cancer drug makers overcharge 600 times

September 29, 2015

Pharmaceutical companies are charging up to 600 times what certain cancer drugs cost to make, and Americans are paying more than double the price charged in Europe for the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).

Pharmaceutical companies are charging up to 600 times what certain cancer drugs cost to make, and Americans are paying more than double the price charged in Europe for the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).

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That is the analysis by pharmacologist Andrew Hill with the University of Liverpool in the U.K., who is presenting his findings this week at European Cancer Congress in Vienna, Sept. 25-29.

The new study is just the latest in criticisms of the cost of certain drugs in the US. Just last week, Turing Pharmaceuticals reversed its very unpopular decision to raise the price of a 62-year-old drug, Daraprim (pyrimethamine), for toxoplasmosis infections, by 5,000%. Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the drug in August, and then quickly raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750 per pill.

Related:Turing reverses decision of 5,000% drug price hike

And Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got involved last week, announcing a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Among the new findings is that Novartis' leukemia drug Glivec actually costs $159 for a year's treatment, compared to $106,000 on average charged in US. And Roche's Tarceva, which Hill found costs $236 to produce, is sold for an average of $79,000 per year.

Plus, the cost of these and other cancer drugs far exceeds the price charged in certain western European countries. In Europe, Glivec costs approximately $29,000 to $35,000, annually, while Tarceva is priced between $26,000 to $29,000 and Tykerb is around $35,000, Hill found.

However, cancer drug costs may decline over the next few years. Several TKIs are expected to become available as generics within the next five years, as patents expire. As a result, large-scale production of these drugs could achieve treatment prices in the range of $159 to $4,022 per person a year, versus the current US cost of around $75,000 to more than $100,000, according to Reuters.

"It shows there is a lot of scope for prices to come down," Hill told Reuters. "There has to be some middle ground between the prices that companies are charging, which may not even be cost-effective by the standards set by some healthcare authorities, and the actual production cost."

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