MADRID, 20 Apr (APM) - A new report saying cancer drugs have more than doubled their prices over the past decade has created controversy about pharma revenues and lack of transparency in pricing talks, it was widely reported on Wednesday and Thursday.
Cancer drugs are among the priciest medicines and those which bring the biggest revenues to pharmaceutical companies, even given substantial public investment in cancer R&D, according to the report ‘Cancer drugs: high prices and inequality’, daily El Mundo reported on Thursday.
The report has been published by a group of associations under the umbrella campaign ‘No es sano’ (‘It's not healthy’), El Mundo noted.
According to the report, the unstoppable rise in prices of cancer drugs is directly impacting healthcare systems globally, increasing drug expenditure and limiting access to treatments. In Spain, some of the most widely used cancer therapies cost as much as €100,000 per patient each year.
This is something the national healthcare system cannot afford, particularly taking into account the increasing number of cancer patients, which is estimated to grow 30% from 247,000 in 2015 to 315,000 in 2035, El Mundo added.
The newspaper named Roche’s Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) and Sanofi’s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) as drugs whose development was partially funded publicly and which are now best-selling products. Other pricey drugs mentioned in the report are CAR-T therapies Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead’s Yescarta.
The newspaper quoted a statement by Spanish branded pharma lobby Farmaindustria as saying: “The cost of cancer medicines in public healthcare settings has been stable at 10% of the drug spend in Spain”.
Farmaindustria argued that even though incidence of cancer has been growing steadily and that 40 new cancer drugs have been approved, the relative cost of these therapies has not increased in the public system.
Farmaindustria noted that eight out of 10 clinical trials of new cancer treatments are funded by pharma, and that 2% of the industry’s sales are devoted to public R&D, financial El Economista reported.
Regarding lack of transparency in pricing talks, which the report criticised, Farmaindustria argued that prices are determined by the pricing commission of the ministry of health, with the participation of regional healthcare authorities and representatives of the finance ministry. The process takes place on objective criteria as required under Spanish law, the financial said.
Dailies El Periódico, Público, El Diario, La Vanguardia, Europa Press agency, the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post and a number of regional newspapers also carried the story.
Allergan’s Truberzi linked to pancreatitis deaths
Spanish drug agency AEMPS has registered cases of pancreatitis with sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, some of them fatal, in patients treated with Allergan’s Truberzi (eluxadoline), medical journal Redacción Médica reported on Wednesday.
The drug’s leaflet has been updated, including a warning and more detailed information about contraindications and special precautions. The agency has also sent a specific warning to healthcare professionals who may use this drug, the journal reported.
In its letter, AEMPS says physicians should tell patients to avoid drinking alcohol while on Truberzi and inform them about symptoms of pancreatitis, Redacción Médica noted.
Truberzi is licensed for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhoea.
Promising investigational drug in type 1 diabetes
Spanish researchers are developing a potential cure for type 1 diabetes, El País and El Periódico reported on Tuesday.
The investigational drug has been used to effectively regenerate insulin-producing cells in mice and human cells, as shown in an article published in Nature Communications, El País reported.
The drug has a dual effect, reducing the attack of immune cells and helping repopulate the pancreas with insulin-producing cells. So far, drugs developed to treat the disease have been effective in only one of these aspects, the newspaper noted.
British researchers develop patch to end needles in diabetes care
A research team from the University of Bath has found a new method to allow glucose control without pricks, daily El País reported on Saturday.
The patch is an inexpensive, convenient method to monitor glucose levels in the patient’s blood, the researchers reported in Nature Nanotechnology. It can be applied anywhere on the skin and provides data for six hours at 10-15 minute intervals. The information can be transferred via Bluetooth to a device which shows the results, the newspaper added.