Wall Street Journal Examines Pricing History of Thalidomide, Cancer Drug Used Off-Label to Treat AIDS-Related Wasting
November 15, 2004
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined the pricing history of thalidomide, a medication whose "reincarnation as an AIDS and cancer treatment shows how the political environment and drug companies' perception of what the market will bear drive decisions on drug prices" in the United States. FDA in 1998 approved thalidomide -- which in the 1960s gained "worldwide notoriety" for causing birth defects in the fetuses of pregnant women who had taken the drug to treat morning sickness -- to treat leprosy after facing pressure from AIDS advocates who wanted access to the drug, according to the Journal. The approval gave physicians the opportunity to prescribe the drug off-label for AIDS-related wasting. In clinical trials, Thalomid -- which is manufactured and marketed by the drug company Celgene -- reduced weight loss in AIDS patients but also temporarily increased the amount of HIV in patients' blood, according to the Journal. The drug's original price was set at about $6 per capsule. However, other medications to treat HIV infection began to enter the market and virtually eliminated AIDS-related wasting as a serious problem in the United States, the Journal reports.
Move to Cancer Drug, Higher Pricing
Ranbaxy's Removal of AIDS Drugs From WHO-Approved Drug List "Adds Chilly Note" to Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.