In the letter signed by Democratic U.S. presidential candidate
Bernie Sanders and Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.),
the lawmakers urged NIH to hold a public hearing to consider
overriding the patent on Xtandi to make the drug available at a
The medication has an average wholesale price in the United States
of more than $129,000 but is sold in Japan and Sweden for $39,000
and in Canada for $30,000, according to the lawmakers' letter,
addressed to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and NIH Director Francis
They noted federal funds supported development of the drug, which
was based on research at the University of California, Los Angeles,
conducted with taxpayer-supported grants.
“When Americans pay for research that results in a pharmaceutical,
that drug should be available at a reasonable price,” said Doggett,
co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus Prescription Drug Task
Force. “An unaffordable drug is 100 percent ineffective."
A spokesman for Astellas said 81 percent of privately insured
patients paid $25 or less out of pocket per month for the medication
in 2015 and 79 percent of Medicare patients paid nothing out of
For eligible patients who do not have insurance or are underinsured
and have an annual adjusted household income of $100,000 or less,
Astellas provides Xtandi for free, spokesman Tyler Marciniak said.
Of the 20,000 men treated with Xtandi last year, more than 2,000
received the drug for free, he added.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in America,
affecting about one in seven men, according to the American Cancer
U.S. lawmakers and presidential candidates have in recent months
stepped up criticism of U.S. drug price trends, raising investor
concerns that future price cuts could hurt pharmaceutical and
[to top of second column]
“The United States government should use every tool available to
lower outrageously high prescription drug prices,” Sanders said.
“NIH has the power to stop this blatant profiteering and put the
pharmaceutical industry on notice that the era of charging
unconscionable prices must end."
Medivation could not be reached for comment.
Spokesmen for the NIH and HHS could not be reached.
Also signing the letter were Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.),
Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
(Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by Bernard Orr and
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