Thursday, April 25, 2013

End Stage Cancer Drug Prices -- Once Again Under Fire -- But Now Comes "The Heavy Artillery"

The New York Times has a front page story up, today, about this morning's lead editorial in the scientific journal Blood. The lead editorial is signed by a stunning array of practicioners -- and will be hard for companies like Novartis, Merck and Pfizer to ignore.

The better strategy here, I think, would be to constructively engage these doctors and patient advocacy groups, acknowledge the plain legitimacy of the issue -- and begin to work toward a less "patchworked" system of rebates and incentives, on price.

We shall see -- but here in America, the implementation of Obamacare is going to force this discussion forward, as well. [Even the Novartis Gleevec® India patent row gets a mention in the Times.] No, this issue is not going to just fade away. . . .

Do go read it all, but heres a bit:

. . . .Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to band together is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices.

Some of the doctors who signed on to the commentary said they were inspired by physicians at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who last fall refused to use a new colon cancer drug, Zaltrap, because it was twice as expensive as another drug without being better.

After those doctors publicized their objections in an Op-Ed column in The New York Times, Sanofi, which markets Zaltrap, effectively cut the price in half.

What impact the new commentary will have remains to be seen. The authors, however, call merely for a dialogue on pricing to begin. . . .
Obviously, this issue bears watching -- for anyone who follows, invests in, or works for any multinational pharmaceutical company. So we will.

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