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Price of leukaemia drug in Japan halved Posted 25/05/2018

Japanese drugmaker Ohara Pharmaceutical has reduced the price of its leukaemia generic imatinib to about half the price of the generics sold by its competitors to encourage leukaemia patients to use more affordable medication.

Imatinib is a protein kinase inhibitor that potently inhibits the activity of the Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase (TK), as well as several receptor TKs, and which is used to treat leukaemia. The originator product Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib) was introduced back in 2001 by Swiss pharma giant Novartis and is known for its effectiveness against the disease, as its users have a five-year survival rate of more than 90%.

Before the introduction of generics Glivec had a price tag of US$120,000/year and in 2015 alone had worldwide sales of US$4.7 billion [1]. However, in the face of completion from generics, global sales of the drug fell by 42% to a mere US$1.94 billion in 2017.

Although 17 pharmaceutical companies currently sell imatinib generics in Japan, they only account for about 10% of all imatinib prescriptions. The reason for this has been attributed to the fact that the upper limit of medical costs to be paid by patients, which is decided according to their income and other factors, often means those who choose generics see little difference in the amount they pay compared to choosing the originator.

To try and change the situation, Ohara Pharmaceutical has reduced its wholesale price for its imatinib generic to about half that of the generics sold by its competitors. According to the company, its imatinib generic will cost a patient about Yen 290,000 a year, compared to about Yen 420,000 for using the originator, when a person >70 years with an annual income ranging between Yen 3.7 million and Yen 7.7 million receives a standard prescription.

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1.  GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Oncology drug pricing – the case of generic imatinib [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2018 May 25]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/Research/Oncology-drug-pricing-the-case-of-generic-imatinib

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Source: The Japan News

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