LOS ANGELES TIMES – Xtandi, a wonder drug for prostate cancer, was developed at UCLA with substantial funding from the taxpayers through the Pentagon and the National Institutes of Health.
UCLA has profited handsomely from the drug, to the tune of more than $520 million in royalties. The drug companies that acquired the manufacturing license, including Pfizer and the Tokyo firm Astellas Pharma, have also raked in billions in sales.
American taxpayers and prostate cancer patients haven’t done as well. Xtandi’s average wholesale price in the U.S. comes to $189,800 a year.
If you’re going to develop a drug with U.S. taxpayer funding, that doesn’t give you freedom to charge whatever you want and gouge people.
Prostate cancer is disproportionately a disease of older men, so much of the cost falls on Medicare, which has become the largest single customer for the drug.
Medicare spent more than $5.8 billion on Xtandi from its introduction in 2012 through 2019, the last year for which the figure is available. In some years, the drug has been among the top 10 costliest drugs for Medicare.
Deductibles and co-pays can bring the out-of-pocket cost of Xtandi even for Medicare enrollees to nearly $10,000 a year.
“For many people who are contending with prostate cancer, that’s real hardship,” says Robert Sachs, a retired telecommunications executive who has been an Xtandi patient.
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The drug is so expensive at the wholesale level that private insurers place it in the highest co-pay categories; some won’t allow doctors to prescribe it without their prior approval, further narrowing patients’ access.
The excruciating problem of high drug prices in the U.S. arises from multiple dysfunctions of our healthcare system, including unrestrained profiteering by drug companies, overly indulgent patent policies and the failure of the government to get tough … read more.