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Debating cost of Xtandi prostate-cancer drug developed with UCLA research

Dr. Katsuto Shinohara (L) and Dr. I-Chow Hsu review images of a prostate with cancer.
Dr. Katsuto Shinohara (L) and Dr. I-Chow Hsu review images of a prostate with cancer.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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A group of Washington lawmakers is calling for public hearings about the cost of Xtandi, a prostate-cancer drug developed with federally-funded research at UCLA.

In a letter to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged the agencies to step in to cut prices for Xtandi, saying it costs four times more in the U.S. than in some other developed countries.

The drug is jointly marketed in the U.S. by Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma and its partner, Medivation Inc., which is based in San Francisco.

Astellas says the campaign doesn't reflect what patients actually pay for the drug. In a statement addressing lawmakers, it argues: "During 2015, 81% of privately insured patients paid $25 or less out of pocket per month for XTANDI and 79% of Medicare patients paid nothing out of pocket per month for XTANDI."

In early March, the University of California, Los Angeles sold its royalty rights to a pharmaceutical investment company for $520 million - with additional monies going to the researchers and an external research company.

Since Astellas and Medivation spearheaded the drug's approval, manufacturing, and marketing, how much does it matter that the science was funded publicly at UCLA? How many drugs akin to Xtandi's development are paid for by Medicare and other taxpayer-funded insurance? Could the pipeline from public institutions, such as the UC system, to FDA drug approval and manufacturing be altered without hurting innovation?

With files from the Associated Press.


James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International - a not-for-profit advocacy organization focused on vulnerable populations; KEI is one of a dozen organizations which filed a petition with the National Institutes of Health to lower the price of Xtandi

Paul Howard, Senior Fellow at the free-market focused think tank, Manhattan Institute where he is director of health policy