Drug Company Raises Cancer Med Price From $50 To $768

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The notorious Martin Shkreli has a kindred spirit in the pharmaceutical price-gouging racket.

According to CBS News, the new manufacturer of a cancer drug that has been on the market for 40 years has jacked up the price by nearly 1,400 percent in the past five years.

The drug, lomustine, had been sold under the brand name CeeNu at a cost of $50 per capsule at its highest dosage. As of December 2017, that same drug -- now under the name Gleostine -- sells for $768 per capsule. NextSource, the new manufacturer, has hiked the price nine times since 2013.

The drug is key for people suffering from brain tumors and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

According to CBS News, NextSource, a private startup based in Miami, Florida, bought the drug from previous manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squib.

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In a statement, NextSource CEO Robert DiCrisci said the company "sets its prices based on the costs it incurred in developing the medication and the benefits it provides patients."

DiCrisci said NextSource offers discounts and financial assistance to those who need help.

NextSource does not have proprietary ownership of the drug, as the patent expired years ago. Still, there is no generic version currently available on the market.

A study conducted by Truveen Health Analytics and Elsevier showed that NextSource hiked prices by 20 percent in August 2017, followed by an additional 12 percent in November 2017, according to CBS News.

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Shkreli, the disgraced former hedge fund manager currently incarcerated on separate charges, gained notoriety in 2015 when his company bought 62-year-old drug Daraprim, used to treat newborns and HIV patients, and jacked up the price of a single pill from $13.50 to $750, according to The Washington Post.

Rising costs for cancer patients is a hot-button issue in health care. When financial limitations impede a person's ability to get the treatment they need in a timely fashion, they also cause the person's overall costs to rise as a result. Delays in seeking treatment can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses, according to CBS News.

As part of the Trump Administration's effort to lower pharmaceutical prices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking to hasten the regulatory review process for those drugs -- such as lomustine -- that lack generic competition in the marketplace even after their patents have expired. However, it is not clear whether the market can support a competitor for a niche medication.

Sources: CBS News, The Washington Post  / Featured Image: wp paarz/Flickr / Embedded Images: Pixabay, Wikimedia Commons

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