BUSINESS

Makers of pricey prostate cancer drug Xtandi are targeted by Congress

Shares of Medivation Inc. tumbled Tuesday after a group of lawmakers started a campaign to lower the price of a drug for advanced prostate cancer, Xtandi, which they say was developed at UCLA through taxpayer-supported research grants.

The drug is jointly marketed in the United States by San Francisco-based Medivation and its partner, Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma Inc. Astellas sells Xtandi outside the U.S.

In a letter to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urged the agencies to step in to cut prices for Xtandi, saying it costs four times as much in the U.S. as in some other developed countries.

They are asking for public hearings on the drug. The lawmakers want the NIH to consider overriding Xtandi's patent, which guarantees Medivation and Astellas exclusive sales for a decade or more. Overriding the patent would allow for Xtandi's price to be reduced.

"Under current law, NIH can take this step if federal funds supported a drug's development and the company is selling it at an unreasonably high price," the lawmakers said in a statement.

In the U.S., Xtandi has an average list price of more than $129,000 per year, though insurers negotiate significant discounts. Patients generally take it for several months. Xtandi is sold in Japan and Sweden for $39,000 and in Canada for $30,000, according to the statement.

Astellas responded Tuesday, saying the lawmakers' campaign doesn't reflect what insurers or patients actually pay for Xtandi. Astellas said about 80% of patients with Medicare or private insurance have a monthly co-payment of $25 or less. It said more than 2,000 men with poor or no insurance and household incomes of $100,000 or less received Xtandi free of charge last year.

Medivation shares sank $2.50, or 6.1%, to close at $38.75.

Medivation and Astellas are just the latest drugmakers to find themselves in Congress' cross hairs.

The chief executive of beleaguered Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. was subpoenaed Monday to appear before the Senate Aging Committee, which is holding its third hearing since December to determine the reasons behind skyrocketing price for drugs.

Valeant, Turing Pharmaceuticals and several other drugmakers have been buying up rights to old drugs and then jacking up prices many times over what patients had paid for years.

Executives of the companies have been invited or subpoenaed to testify at hearings on the issue held by multiple congressional committees.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 30, 2016, in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Lawmakers urge cut in price of drug - They say Xtandi, for prostate cancer, costs four times as much in the U.S. as it does in some other nations." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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