Asda cuts price of cancer drugs

Asda is to sell cancer drugs on a not-for-profit basis, helping patients to pay for treatment that is deemed too expensive for the NHS to provide free.

The announcement yesterday sparked a price war on cancer drugs, with Sainsbury's saying it would match Asda's prices. Asda called on the rest of the industry to follow its lead and end price mark-ups on all cancer drugs prescribed privately.

The decision could save thousands of pounds for patients paying privately for treatments which may extend their lives, and which are not available on the NHS. A similar scheme for IVF drugs saved consumers up to £800 per cycle.

The lung cancer drug Iressa will be sold by Asda for £2,167 for a pack of 30. This is markedly cheaper than the £2,601 charged at Lloyds Pharmacy, £3,251 at Boots and £3,253 at Superdrug.

Asda said it had checked the price of seven of the most commonly privately prescribed cancer drugs in UK pharmacies and had found mark-ups of up to 76 per cent.

It claimed Superdrug had the highest prices on four out of seven drugs, and marked up all seven of the drugs by 50 per cent over cost price. It said prices at Lloyds and Tesco were marked up by 20 per cent, while at Boots all seven drugs were marked up by either 50 per cent or 27 per cent.

Asda will also sell the leukaemia drug Glivec for £1,604. Nexavar for kidney and liver cancer will be sold for £2,980 while Sutent for kidney and stomach tumours will be sold for £3,138. Tarceva for pancreatic and lung cancer will be priced at £1,631.