publication date: May. 11, 2018

Generic options provide limited savings for high-priced cancer drugs

Generic drug options did not significantly reduce prices paid for the cancer therapy imatinib (Gleevec), according to a Health Affairs paper published May 10.

After nearly two years of generic competition, the price for a month of treatment with imatinib dropped by only 10 percent, according to authors from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Most estimates of price reductions due to generic entry assume prices will drop by as much as 80 percent,” said senior author Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor of health policy at VUSM. “Obviously, we aren’t even close to that mark.”

In their Health Affairs paper, “Generic Price Competition For Specialty Drugs: Too Little, Too Late?” Dusetzina and first author Ashley Cole, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focused specifically on generic price competition for Gleevec.

Not only did prices remain high during that period, uptake of the generic version of imatinib was slow among oncologists, she said.

When Gleevec, the poster child for effective cancer therapies, became available in 2001, it changed chronic myeloid leukemia from a condition with a short life expectancy into a manageable chronic disease.

Because patients typically take Gleevec every day for the rest of their lives, costs of treatment can be a significant burden.

It was priced at nearly $4,000 per bottle when it came on the market in 2001. That price jumped to nearly $10,000 per bottle by 2015, before a generic competitor entered the market.

But prices remained high even two years after a generic option was available.

“Patients … Continue reading Generic options provide limited savings for high-priced cancer drugs

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