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Lawmakers Question Price Hikes For Leukemia Drug

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., are pictured in Washington last year. Sanders and Cummings are demanding information from a drug company that repeatedly has raised prices on a leukemia drug.
Susan Walsh
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Another pharmaceutical company is coming under fire for boosting the price of one of its drugs. Two lawmakers are demanding to know the justification for a more than $80,000 price hike for a year's supply of a drug that treats leukemia patients.

As NPR's Alison Kodjak reports:

"The drug is called Iclusig and it was approved in 2012 to treat a subset of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.

"Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent a letter to Ariad Pharmaceuticals asking it to explain the medication's $200,000 price tag.

"The two lawmakers say the company boosted the price repeatedly and at the same time cut the dose, effectively raising the costs even more.

"In the letter, the lawmakers demanded details about the company's profits and any programs it offers to cut patient costs."

Sanders recently has taken up the fight against escalating drugs costs and Cummings is senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Associated Press reports:

"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."

During that period, says the AP, the drug Iclusig was linked to life-threatening blood clots. Ariad took the drug off the market temporarily, then re-introduced it in late 2013 with added warnings and recommended it for a small subset of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.

Ariad's price hike was first reported earlier this month by The Street.

"Ariad says the price hikes are justified because Iclusig 'addresses an area of high unmet medical need in an ultra-orphan patient population of around 1,000-2,000 patients per year.' "

As we have reported, Mylan Pharmaceuticals faced criticism this year over the price of EpiPen, which is used to treat allergic reactions, as did Turing Pharmaceuticals last year for the cost of Daraprim, which treats a deadly parasitic infection.

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Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.