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Selected news articles which highlight important policy issues.

News: Weekly Archives

News for the week of 06-02-2006

Latest Drugs Could Shake Up Cancer Market
Wall Street Journal, 6-2-06

Editor's Notes:

This Wall Street Journal article explains why we should all give three cheers for the next generation of (so-called) "me-too" drugs. Take, for instance, the current generation of targeted cancer treatments, which have proven successful both for cancer patients and for the companies that make them.

So successful, in fact, that rival companies are rushing to produce similar medicines that will eventually compete with pathbreaking drugs like Herceptin, Gleevec, and Erbitux. Over the long run, the proliferation of drugs with similar mechanisms of action and similar markets will help lower cancer drug prices and offer more treatment alternatives to patients.

The Journal explains that:

Medicine's newest weapons against cancer—drugs that "smart bomb" tumors at their genetic weak points—may soon have a new target: each other.

At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which kicks off today in Atlanta, researchers are expected to report clinical data from several new targeted cancer therapies that, if positive, could lead to direct competition for some of the fastest–growing cancer drugs on the market.

The new competition, most of which hasn't received Food & Drug Administration approval, would be good news for cancer patients and their doctors, although it might present headaches for some manufacturers and their investors.

Among the drugs that could face new rivals are Herceptin, Genentech Inc.'s targeted breast-cancer treatment; Erbitux, a colon-cancer drug from Bristol–Myers Squibb and ImClone Systems Inc.; and Gleevec, Novartis AG's pioneering drug that targets a form of leukemia...

Some experts even hold out hope that increased competition will eventually hold down skyrocketing prices for new cancer therapies, which can cost as much as $100,000 a year per drug. To date, such competition has been virtually nonexistent, allowing companies like Genentech to justify their high prices on the basis of the unique benefits their drugs provide.

For first–in–class drugs like Herceptin, it benefits society to pay premium prices that encourages follow–on research—as it is doing now. And, as Herceptin and other biotech drugs go off–patent—and the FDA perfects rules for biogenerics—their prices will drop even more significantly.

[permanent link]



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