Generic Cancer Drug in Spotlight After Price Hike


NextSource Biopharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Tri-Source Pharma, has increased the price of the 40-year-old, off-patent cancer drug lomustine (Gleostine) by 1400% over the last four years, and three US senators want to know why.

Lomustine was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976. It is approved for treatment of glioblastoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma and is also used off-label to treat other forms of cancer.

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) have sent a letter to Robert DiCrisci, the CEO of Tri-Source Pharma, asking him to explain the huge price hike.

"We want to learn more about NextSource Biotechnology LLC's acquisition of the rights to sell lomustine, a prescription drug used to treat brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma," Senators Collins, McCaskill, and Cortez Masto noted.

"In particular, we would like to better understand the factors contributing to the rising cost of lomustine, which has increased nearly 1,400% since 2013 for the highest dose," they said.

The cost of providing the drug at "little to no cost" to the federal government for use in Medicaid and the government drug discount program for as little as 5 cents per bottle of five capsules.

Skyrocketing prices for generics have garnered increased attention lately. In 2015, Senators Collins and McCaskill launched a bipartisan investigation into "abrupt and dramatic price increases for prescription drugs whose patents expired long ago.

The results of their investigation were released in 2016 in a report titled, "Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Prescription Drugs: The Monopoly Business Model That Harms Patients, Taxpayers, and the U.S. Health Care System."

"Through close examination of the monopoly business model used by four pharmaceutical companies to exploit market failures, the report examines how companies acquired decades-old, off-patent, and previously affordable drugs and then raised the prices suddenly and astronomically at the expense of patients," the Senators said.

"We must work to stop the bad actors who are driving up the prices of drugs that they did nothing to develop at the expense of patients just because, as one executive essentially said, 'because I can,"  Collins said.

Lack of competition may be driving generic price hikes, and following their investigation, Senators Collins and McCaskill authored a bill to improve generic competition and increase the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs, which was signed into law as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act.