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Soaring Prices Keep Leukemia Drugs From Patients, Experts Say
Date:4/26/2013

percent in much of Europe, the researchers added.

The drugs for CML include Gleevec from Novartis; Pfizer Inc.'s Bosulif; Sprycel from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Synribo from Teva.

How prices are set lies at the heart of the issue, according to the experts.

"In many cases, it makes sense to let the market govern the price; however, when a product is directly related to a patient's survival over a period of years, it is critical to set a price that allows companies to profit and ensures that patients can afford their treatment," said Kantarjian.

Drug makers argue that the stratospheric prices reflect the cost of research and development and the "value of a drug to patients," according to the New York Times.

In the Blood article, the authors noted that the reported cost of bringing a new cancer drug to market is roughly $1 billion, although not all experts agree on that high a figure.

Yet, Gleevec's sales were $4.7 billion in 2012 alone, the Times reported.

Noting the pricing and maintenance issue is "complex," Novartis said in a statement Thursday that it would "welcome the opportunity to be part of the dialogue."

This isn't the first time cancer specialists have banned together to oppose high drug prices, according to the Times. Last fall, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City announced they wouldn't use the Sanofi colon cancer drug Zaltrap because it cost twice as much as another drug and wasn't an improvement. Subsequently, Sanofi cut the price of the drug in half.

More information

To learn about chronic myeloid leukemia, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

--Margaret Farley Steele

SOURCE: American Society of Hematology, news release, April 25, 2013; New York Times
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