Lomustine is a cancer drug that treats brain tumors, lung cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has been around for nearly 40 years, but it is becoming more expensive after the drug has gone up in price by 1400%.
The drug was previously called CeeNU and was sold from Bristol-Myers Squibb to a Miami-based startup called NextSource Biotechnology.
The drug previously sold for $50 a pill and now costs $768. The company has increased the price of the prescription nine times in less than five years. According to Wall Street Journal, the drug saw a 20% hike in August followed by a 12% hike in November. Prices of other doses of the drug, which is called Gleostine, has also increased.
While the patent for lomustine has expired, currently there is no generic version being produced, and as a result, NextSource has no competitors to discourage it from raising prices.
The Nextsource chief executive told the Journal the company bases its pricing on development costs, fees and the benefit the drug provides to people. It also gives low-income patients and those without health insurance a discount on products.
NextSource is not the only company accused of dramatically increasing prices. In 2015, Martin Shkreli, chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, sparked controversy after increasing the cost of anti-Aids drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent from $13.50 to $750 a pill. Many people criticized the price increase including Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and soon after that by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.
In December 2015, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI after being indicted on federal charges of securities fraud. He would later resign as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals and was replaced by the company’s board chairman, Ron Tilles. Shkreli was later convicted of two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud in August 2015.
Also, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to two life-saving heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, and immediately increases prices by 525% and 212%.