After Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (one of the leading cancer care institutions in the country) decided not to use the colon cancer drug Zaltrap due to the drug’s price, manufacturer Sanofi announced that it would reduce the price of Zaltrap by about half. (The official price for Zaltrap has not been changed, but Sanofi will offer discounts of about 50%.)
Doctors from Sloan-Kettering claimed that the Zaltrap, originally priced at $11,000/month, was twice as expensive but not more effective that the comparable cancer drug Avastin from Genentech. Sanofi countered that the price set was similar to that of Avastin and that Sloan-Kettering was “basing its price comparison on a dose of Avastin that was half the dose Sanofi used in its own comparison.”
Sanofi’s offer of discounts on Zaltrap have been criticized as failing to address the real issue of cost of care because Medicare reimbursement and co-payments required by patients would still be tied to the original high price for at least many months. Another problem with Sanofi’s plan for discounts is that it might create perverse incentives; hospitals might want to use Zaltrap to profit from the discounted price they for the drug and the higher price for which they get reimbursed by insurance companies.
Overall, the move to slash the price this dramatically is unusual for a drug company and may be a signal that physicians are increasingly taking a stand against rampant drug prices.