Journey of Generic Imatinib - A Case Study in Oncology Drug Pricing

When first approved, Gleevec ushered in a new era of targeted oncology drugs. At its introduction in 2001, the list price of Gleevec was $26,000 per year. At the time of its patent expiration, the price had risen to over $120,000 annually. That price is now over $140,000.

Patients and observers were optimistic that prices would drop with competition in 2006 with the arrival of Dasatinib (Sprycel). Instead of lowering the cost of Gleevec, competition had a magnetic pull – upwards.

Such incremental price hikes have become a defining trademark for the drug industry in the United States.

Prices were expected to drop by 60-90% with the launch of generics in 2016 But prices have remained high; the list price for the cheapest generic version of Gleevec is still more than $4,000 a month.

The drug isn’t this expensive everywhere: annual treatment costs are around $8,000 in Canada and just $400 in India.

This 2017 case-study via ASCO provides a life-cycle management overview of the gravity-defying prices of cancer drugs.