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Dutch health minister attacks Novartis over orphan drug price hike

Published on 15/01/19 at 10:54am

Dutch health minister Bruno Bairns has called for a meeting with Swiss multinational Novartis after the multibillion-dollar firm introduced a five-fold price hike on cancer drug Lutathera.

The call has come following Novartis’ acquisition of nuclear medicine specialist Advanced Accelerator Applications. The buyout gave Novartis the rights to orphan drug. However Bruins has accused Novartis of using the drug’s market exclusivity to jack up the price.

While several Dutch hospitals are able to produce the drug at a cost of €4000 per infusion (with four infusions needed), Novartis charge €90,000 for a full course.

“This expensive medicine is covered in the basic health insurance package so patients will continue to be treated,’ Bruins said. ‘But we are having to deal with so many other really expensive drugs that we really do have to tackle this.”

Novartis responded in suggesting that until its approval by the EMA, Lutathera “was only available as an experimental treatment at centers with the facilities and capabilities to manage the compounding of a radioactive product.”

The company said in a statement: “The price of Lutathera was carefully considered and based on the benefit the treatment provides to patients, healthcare systems and society at large. It is priced comparably to other existing therapies approved for this patient population.”

The drug, which was first discovered by researchers at Rotterdam’s Erasmus Medical Centre in the mid-1980s, was granted marketing authorisation in September 2017.

Louis Goss

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