A little known pharmaceutical company in Florida has found itself in the eye of a storm following disclosures it raised the price of an old drug used to fight brain tumours by 1,400%, from $50 a pill to more than $700.
NextSource Biotechnology in 2013 bought the license for the drug Lomustine from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which sold a 100mg pill of the substance for nearly $50 apiece.
Since then, according to The Wall Street Journal, it raised the price of the same pill to $768, marketing it in the United States under the name Gleostine.
The patent for Lomustine, which also is known as CeeNU or CCNU, has expired but there is no generic equivalent.
It was developed more than 40 years ago as a chemotherapy treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumour.
The Wall Street Journal story set off angry reactions among readers, a wave of accusations on social media of “corporate greed” and an open letter from an association of Democratic activists in Miami-Dade county demanding that NextSource be investigated for “gouging and anti-competitive practices.”
Local politicians on Thursday gave their backing to the so-called People’s Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade, which is organizing a protest Saturday outside NextSource’s office in downtown Miami.
The website Canada Drugs lists the same drug, under the name CeeNU, at $35 for a 100mg pill.
In an editorial in the September edition of The Cancer Letter, three oncologists and pharmacologists from the Duke University Health System in Durham, North Carolina denounced NextSource’s practice of arbitrary price increases as “unconscionable.”
“This tactic of extreme price increases of life-saving medications is both repulsive and disheartening,” they said. “In the process of prescribing standard-of-care treatments for our patients, we pose them with an impossible dilemma: either face financial hardship to take the medication or choose not to receive potentially life-saving therapy.”