Public interest groups, members of Congress call for public hearing on cancer drug’s price
Did you know your tax dollars support research that leads to drugs priced so high Americans can’t afford them? We think this is wrong and we urge you to help us speak out about this issue.
RxRights signed on to a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week, along with 10 other public interest organizations, calling for a public hearing and expressing support for “march-in” rights, an extreme measure to reduce the price of Xtandi, a prostate cancer drug that costs $129,000 per year.
“March-in” rights refer an agency’s ability to override a drug patent and require a drug maker to issue a compulsory license to another party when a drug’s benefits aren’t accessible on “reasonable terms” or public health and safety needs “are not being reasonably satisfied.” The NIH, DoD and HHS all have the authority to bypass drug patents. But historically, none of the agencies has exercised this right.
Xtandi was invented at a public university, UCLA, using federal grants from the NIH and DoD. Despite the fact that Xtandi’s discovery was fueled by federal funds, the Japanese company Astellas Pharma charges Americans $350 per day for the drug—that’s two to four times more than patients in other high-income countries.
Some backstory on this issue:
On March 28, a group of a dozen members of the House and Senate, led by Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT), co-chairs of the Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force, sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Francis Collins, director of the NIH. The letter calls for “an open and transparent public hearing on Xtandi” to “provide insight into the NIH’s decision-making process on this case.”
Back in January, 50 House Democrats led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) sent a letter to the heads of HHS and the NIH asking them to use their power to address drug price gouging via march-in rights.
Shortly after that, Knowledge Ecology International and the Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment petitioned the HHS, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the NIH with a specific request for the agencies to exercise federal march-in rights to end the monopoly on Xtandi.
Secretary Burwell responded to Rep. Doggett on March 2, outlining the steps the administration has taken to address drug prices. Burwell said the agency would consider asserting march-in rights on a “case-by-case basis” and was “prepared to use its authority.” But she hasn’t responded specifically to the Xtandi march-in petition yet.
Do you want your hard-earned taxpayer dollars to support research that leads to drugs Americans can’t afford? Click here to contact Secretary Burwell and Director Francis Collins today to express your opinion.