Since 2013, Price Of Off-Patent Tumor Medication Has Soared 1400%

e-Magine Art/Flickr

The price of lomustine, which treats brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma, went from $50 per capsule in 2013 to $768 today.

A drug that came to market 40 years ago and continues to face no competition has seen its price rise 1400 percent since 2013, a familiar story in today's pharmaceutical culture.

According to the Wall Street Journal, lomustine - a treatment for brain tumors and Hodgkin lymphoma - cost about $50 per capsule for many years, until it was purchased by a new company.

Now, the same capsule costs about $768, after nine price increases by a little-known Miami startup, NextSource, which supplies lomustine in a deal with the drug’s new owner, manufacturer CordenPharma.

NextSource CEO Robert DiCrisci said the price of lomustine is set based on "product-development costs, regulatory-agency fees, and the benefit the treatment delivers to patients." DiCrisci offers a similar refrain to other companies that have significantly raised prices for drugs serving a mall portion of the population and seek to recoup investment costs.

Lomustine isn’t widely prescribed. In 2015, the most-recent year for which data were available, Medicare Part D prescription-benefit plans paid for 1,694 prescriptions in the U.S., according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But because of the price increase, Part D spending on the drug jumped to about $608,000 in 2015 from $163,000 the year before.

But the medical community isn't sold that it has to be this way and is concerned that company profits are taking precedence over the well-being of patients.

Some cancer doctors are taking notice of the price hike. “This is simply price gouging, period,” said Henry S. Friedman, a neuro-oncologist and professor of neurosurgery at Duke University School of Medicine. “People are not going to be able to afford it, or they’re going to pay a lot of money and have financial liability.” He co-wrote an editorial criticizing lomustine’s pricing in The Cancer Letter newsletter in September.