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Doctors Question High Price of Lung Cancer Drug Portrazza

Cost of treatment exceeds $137,000 per year

Physicians contend that the price tag for the newly approved lung cancer drug necitumumab (Portrazza, Lilly) is too high –– by about $9,000 a month –– for a medication that extends life expectancy by a only few weeks and only in about half of treated patients, according to an article posted on the FiercePharma website.

In November 2015, the FDA approved necitumumab for the treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non–small-cell lung cancer. In clinical trials, approximately half of the patients receiving necitumumab lived for a median period of six to seven weeks longer compared with untreated patients. On December 11, Lilly priced necitumumab at $11,430 per month, or $137,160 per year.

Physicians at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology questioned Lilly’s action in an article published in JAMA Oncology. In the authors’ opinion, $1,870 for a 30-day regimen was more in line with the drug’s value when compared with the generic agents that are currently the standard of care for lung cancer.

“I don’t think we should be paying high prices for a drug that only provides a very minimal level of benefit,” coauthor Dr. Daniel Goldstein told the Wall Street Journal. In response, a Lilly spokeswoman told the newspaper that necitumumab “is worth more to society than a slight premium” to the older generic drugs cited in the article because it provides an option for doctors treating patients who have few alternatives. Her statement echoed the opinion of an FDA advisory panel, which largely supported the approval of necitumumab in July 2015 despite the treatment’s limited efficacy.

More than 100 physicians have signed an editorial urging patients to talk to their elected officials about reforms to reduce the cost of cancer drugs. Separately, a coalition of cancer groups is putting together information that ranks the costs and efficacy of different drugs so that patients and doctors can make informed decisions on treatments and their costs.

Source: FiercePharma; December 14, 2015.

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