publication date: Nov. 8, 2019

Lomustine’s path from unavailable but cheap to plentiful but expensive

Needed: a better manufacturing method

By Paul Goldberg

Lomustine, a.k.a. CCNU, is an old cancer drug.

A couple of years ago, it was hard to obtain but cheap. It has since turned a corner, becoming plentiful but wildly expensive.

Approved in 1976 and used in the treatment of brain tumors and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lomustine used to be produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The drug has since been picked up and “rebranded” by a Miami-based private company called NextSource Pharmaceuticals, which sells it at a price many regard as mind-boggling, considering that this alkylating nitrosourea compound is so basic that an average student at a chemistry program at, say, Purdue University, could make it in a bath tub without blowing up her dorm.

Until earlier this week, NextSource was embroiled in a massive court battle over ownership. Court documents contain allegations about the CEO, Robert DiCrisci, having an affair with his generously compensated assistant and expensing five-figure tabs at strip joints. An attorney for the CEO said the salacious allegations were untrue and were ruled irrelevant by a judge.

But, clearly, the ownership stake in the company was worth fighting for. Raw materials for making lomustine, its only product, cost 25 cents per course, and the finished product now sells for $2,411 for a typical six-week treatment.

Characters in this story include a brain tumor doc in a Duke hoodie, and an  organic chemistry professor at Purdue who believes that generic drugs can be made so cheaply and so safely that seemingly omnipresent drug shortages would just go away. There are also congressional … Continue reading Lomustine’s path from unavailable but cheap to plentiful but expensive

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