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Why does Gleostine (lomustine), above, cost 1400% more than…

Lomustine is a medication that treats cancer, which was discovered in 1976. Recently, a drug company bought the rights to market the 100 mg version of Lomustine in the U.S. and increased its price by 1400%. As a result, Americans with brain tumors are now struggling to afford this off-patent drug or simply going without it altogether. They don’t have to because Lomustine is available in Canada. There, Lomustine is marketed under the name “CeeNU” at a 97% discount.

Here are some price comparisons for CeeNU 100mg.

Until 2013, CeeNU was sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Co. and even available at U.S. pharmacies for about $50/pill. Now, made by a company called Corden Pharma Latina SPA, the drug is sold in the United States under the name Gleostine, which is the new – and only –  FDA-approved version. Gleostine is distributed by a “start-up” drug company called Next Source Biotechnology LLC, for $768/pill. Yes, this sounds like what Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals did back in 2015 with Daraprim when he jacked the price from $13.50 to $750 a pill.

CeeNU 100 mg, made by Bristol Myers Squibb, can be purchased online from Canada for about $25/pill from PharmacyChecker-verified pharmacies. You can compare prices for all strengths of CeeNU.

Harkening back to my long post from last week about the FDA’s use of the words misbranded and unapproved drugs, CeeNU is a perfect example of how importation laws do not protect people from dangerous medication, but curtail access.

….the old exact same FDA-approved version?

Remember, CeeNU 100 mg was an “FDA-approved” drug. Now it’s probably considered a misbranded drug if imported into the U.S. by an individual filling a prescription in Canada. It is misbranded because the Canadian CeeNU is packaged to meet Canadian laws, but not packaged and labeled in accordance with FDA regulations. The Canadian CeeNU, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is most certainly equally as safe as the price-inflated Glestine patients are faced with buying here at home. In fact, the Canadian (which was once American) version is the effective, lower-cost medication that an uninsured cancer patient in the U.S. may very well need right now.

Here’s one last interesting tidbit for drug importation policy folks: CeeNU 100mg and Gleostine 100mg – the one available for sale in the U.S. at a premium of 3000% – are both made in Italy.

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