Generic options provide limited savings for expensive drugs

Generic drug options did not reduce prices paid for the cancer therapy imatinib (Gleevec), according to a Health Affairs study released today in its May issue.

After nearly two years of generic competition the price for a month of treatment dropped by only 10 percent, according to authors from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Most estimates of price reductions due to generic entry assume prices will drop by as much as 80 percent,” said senior author Stacie Dusetzina, Ph.D., associate professor of Health Policy at VUSM. “Obviously we aren’t even close to that mark.”

Not only are prices remaining high during that period, doctors were initially slow to prescribe the generic treatment, she said.

Gleevec, the poster child for effective cancer therapies, became available in 2001 and changed chronic myeloid leukemia from a condition with a short life expectancy into a manageable chronic disease.

Because patients typically take Gleevec every day for the rest of their lives, costs of treatment can be a significant burden.

It was priced at nearly $4,000 per bottle when it came on the market in 2001 and that price escalated to nearly $10,000 per bottle


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