Cancer patients denied best medicines because drug firms charge more in Britain

Lapatinib costs £24,000 for a patient for a year in the UK, but about £11,600 in Thailand

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Indy Lifestyle Online

People with cancer are not being given the best medicines because some drug companies charge far more in the UK than in other countries, according to a report.

The NHS has decided not to pay for two drugs, lapatinib for breast cancer and dasatinib for leukaemia, because they were deemed to be not cost-effective.

Lapatinib, sold under the brand name Tyverb, costs £24,000 for a patient for a year in the UK, but about £11,600 in Thailand, The Guardian reported. And dasatinib, brand name Sprycel, costs about £22,100 in the UK, but about £10,100 in Brazil.

A number of other expensive drugs for cancer are available on the NHS, but they can be bought for much less in other countries.

Dr Andrew Hill, of Liverpool University, the lead author of a paper about the cost of cancer drugs to be published at the European Cancer Conference in Vienna, told The Guardian: “Some of the drugs which have been recently removed from the [Government’s] cancer drugs fund are actually very cheap to manufacture, and are being sold in other countries at prices much lower than the UK.

“If these cancer drugs could be introduced to the UK at these lower prices, they would be affordable and patients could benefit from them.

“For example dasatinib, used to treat leukaemia, is being sold in Brazil at less than half the UK price, and the cost price of production is 99 per cent lower than the UK price.”

He added that the usual excuse made by pharmaceutical companies for high prices did not hold water.

“The pharmaceutical companies who developed these drugs are making vast profits every year, and so could afford to sell their drugs more cheaply,” Dr Hill said.

“The majority of spending from pharmaceutical companies is on advertising and marketing, not on R&D [research and development] as they claim.

“So the normal justification that high drug prices are required to sustain high R&D costs is hard to defend.”

The research comes after Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of the Drug daraprim, used to treat life-threatening parasitical infections particularly among people with HIV/Aids, from $13.50 for each pill to $750. Amid the subsequent uproar, Martin Shkreli, Turing’s chief executive, told ABC News that the firm had “agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit”. He did not say what the new price was going to be.

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