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Japanese Life & Culture

Super Cancer Drug Down-Priced 50%

By November 23, 2016 at 8:08 pm
Opdivo(Photo : Ono Pharmaceutical)

The Welfare-Labor Minister's advisory body, the Central Social Insurance Medical Council, agreed to bring down the price of the revolutionary cancer drug Opdivo by 50%, effective February, next year. The decision was made at the council's general assembly, November 16.

Opdivo has made itself famous as  a new cancer drug known for the treatment of lung cancer, etc. and for its exorbitantly high price - 35 million yen per patient per year. It is said to be eating up on the state's finance and the present decision aims at cutting on its  price prior to the scheduled drug price cut in April the year after next.

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Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Opdivo's developer,  comments that they had anticipated a price cut in the year 2018  and the decision at this stage not only immensely hurts their finance but  also demoralize heavily their innovative research into new drugs. The company is contemplating redress by November 22.

Meanwhile, according to NHK, another member of the council, Shionogi & Co., says the price cut decision on Opdivo ought to be an exceptional measure never to be repeated. The company's director Yoshiaki Kamoya comments:

"A major price cut such as this one damages the company's predictability and slackens willingness to develop new drugs. It is high time the current drug price system should revise its rules"

However, another member of the council, Director Shoji Sakino of the  National Federation of Health Insurance Societies, (Kenporen), welcomes the price of Opdivo brought down, commenting:

"The market size of Opdivo is 30 times larger, now that this drug is found applicable to broader cancer treatment. The situation calls a drastic price cut on this drug. 
"After all, drugs are paid for by tax, and there ought to be such drastic measures in the future to bring drug  prices down."

Meanwhile, Chairman Yokokura of Japan Medical Association find the present decision inevitable:

"I believe this is an inevitable decision to keep our medical insurance going for the whole nation. New drugs are more to come. There ought to be a new kind of setup for coordinating drug price."

We all know Opdivo is a miracle drug. All problems aside, cancer patients are eagerly awaiting the day it comes readily available. (Nathan Shiga)

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