Keytruda and Opdivo to Vie Head On in Japan
The Ministry of Welfare disclosed February 8 at the meeting of the Central Social Insurance Medical Council the market price of Keytruda, a cancer drug developed by the US pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. at 39,099 yen per day or 14 million yen per year. Merck & Co. plans to market the drug by the end of February to vie head-on with Japan's Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.. and its own cancer drug Opdivo. Merck's Keytruda is now available for the treatment of lung cancer in Japan.
Opdivo's market price is to be downed effective February this year after a controversy over its excessively high drug price, and Merck's advance into the Japanese market coincides with the development. The price scheme thus leveled off, both Opdivo and Keytruda cost alike if applied on patients with a weight, say, of 50 kilograms.
In terms of dosage, Opdivo is prescribed in accordance with the weight of each lung cancer patient, while Keytruda does not discriminate the weight of patients.The effects have already been verified after clinical tests. This means the two drugs cost vary by the weight of patients.
For instance, a patient weighing 60 kg can save 3 million yen with Keytruda which costs 14 million per year over Opdivo 17 million. Likewise, Opdivo costs less for a patient weighing 40 kg - 11 million yen against somewhat higher if treated with Keytruda. The average weight of the Japanese being over 50 kg, Keytruda is more accessible.
An application by Merck for higher drug price by virtue of "higher effects" of Keytruda over Optivo was turned down by the Ministry of Welfare.
Merck expects Keytruda to sell 544 million yen and the number of its consumers to be some 7300 per year at a peak time, and proposes to bring down the drug price by a large margin if the volume of consumption should rise, it was confirmed at the meeting. (Nathan Shiga)