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Price for Leukemia Drug Inflates; Lawmakers Oppose

October 21
6:00 AM 2016

Iclusig, the drug that is used to treat patients suffering from all forms of chronic myeloid leukemia was approved by the FDA in December 2012. Recently the drug had a price hike of a whopping $80 000 for a year's supply.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, sent a letter to Ariad Pharmaceuticals asking it to explain the medication's $200 000 price tag. In the letter addressed to Ariad CEO Paris Panayiotopoulos, the two lawmakers said Ariad's "outrageous sales tactics" show that the company is "more concerned with its profit than with its patients."

The announcement about letter caused a dive on the sales of Ariad as much as 7 percent before recovering and ending the day slightly lower. Ariad said in a statement that "oncology drugs are expensive, but it stands behind the importance and effectiveness of its products." "Iclusig is the first drug that we have brought to market after years of risk taking and research, and it serves a very small and seriously ill group of cancer patients," the company added.

According to data from Truven Health Analytics, the list price for a year's supply of Iclusig tablets has increased from $114,960 in 2012 to $198,732 in October 2016. Aria said that during that period, the drug was linked with life-threatening blood clots making the drug off of the market. It was later then re-introduced in late 2013 with added warnings and recommended it for a small subset of patients. Ariad said in a statement "our pricing reflects our significant investment in R&D, our commitment to the very small, ultra orphan cancer patient populations that we serve and the associated risk with research and development."

The lawmakers have recently turned their attention to drug pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry, calling out price hikes. "The drug industry is getting very, very nervous. We are going to take them on and lower the cost of medication across this country," said Senator Sanders in a tweet. 

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