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Dutch pharmacists to circumvent Novartis cancer drug market exclusivity

Published on 08/03/19 at 09:36am

Dutch pharmacists have vowed to circumvent rules enforcing Novartis’ market exclusivity for radioactive cancer drug Lutathera.  

Pharmacists at Erasmus, Amsterdam’s University Medical Center (UMC) and the Transvaal Pharmacy in The Hague will exercise their right to ‘compound’ medicines in an effort to increase the affordability of the drug.

The move comes after Swiss firm Novartis acquired nuclear medicine specialist Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA) and thus acquired the rights to lutetium octreotate (Lutathera).

Novartis quickly registered the drug as a treatment for a rare disease with the EMA. The filing gave Novartis orphan drug status and in turn market exclusivity.

Novartis then hiked the price of the cancer drug to €90,000 for a full course. This came in at a cost of €23,000 per infusion. Dutch hospitals had previously been able to manufacture the drug at a cost of just €4,000 per infusion.

As such, in a protest against rising drug prices Dutch pharmacists will exercise their right to ‘compound’ medicines in manufacturing the drug.

“People with rare diseases are dependent on medicines that are so expensive that they can’t afford them, when they could be offered for a much lower price,” said UMC pharmacist Marleen Kemper

The guerrilla pharmacies come with the endorsement of the Dutch government who recently granted Amsterdam’s UMC €5 million for the expansion of their compounding programme.

The endorsement comes after Dutch health minister Bruno Bairns condemned Novartis on a Dutch TV talk show after saying that its actions regarding Lutathera was an "example of how not to behave".

Louis Goss

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