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Taking a High-Priced Cancer Drug with a Low-Fat Meal Can Cut Cost by 75%

Taking a High-Priced Cancer Drug with a Low-Fat Meal Can Cut Cost by 75%
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University of Chicago Medical Center


University of Chicago Medical Center (click to view)

University of Chicago Medical Center

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Taking one-fourth the standard dose of a widely used drug for prostate cancer with a low-fat breakfast can be as effective – and four times less expensive – as taking the standard dose as recommended: on an empty stomach.

The study, a multi-center, randomized, phase-II clinical trial to be presented at ASCO’s 2017 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in Orlando, FL, found that the 36 patients who took 250 milligrams of the drug with a low-fat breakfast had outcomes that were virtually identical to the 36 patients who took the standard dose, 1,000 milligrams of the drug on an empty stomach.

The finding has significant financial implications. The drug, abiraterone acetate – marketed as ZYTIGA® – now retails for more than $9,000 per month. Even patients with blue-ribbon health insurance can have co-pays ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per month.


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Patients taking abiraterone acetate typically stay on the medication for 12 to 18 months. Since 2011, according to the manufacturer’s website, more than 100,000 patients in the United States alone have filled prescriptions for abiraterone.

If each of those 100,000 patients had taken the drug for 12 months and, theoretically, paid the list price out of pocket but took the lower dose with food, the 75-percent cost reduction could have saved them more than $6 billion.

Read the full press release here.

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