He made us an offer we can’t refuse.
October 1, 2013… Early last week I got the first e-mail. This was the nearly frantic report from a friend that Jakafi now costs over $10,000 a month. Worse, his insurance wouldn’t cover it because the company has an $8300 limit. It took a special high price drug request by his eminent hematologist to get the ball rolling.
Eventually, it was approved: $10,020 for the basic 60 capsule bottle of 20mg Jakafi pills.
$120,240 a year.
How do you respond to something like that? Here’s a drug that is too expensive, rejected by the UK because it’s too expensive, calculated in the pages of the Journal Blood to be three times its cost-effective price. In the past two weeks, over 200 patients have pleaded with Incyte to reduced the price of Jakafi. And Incyte — the company that claims it cares — raises the price?
It’s like the rabbi advising the village baker who complains his hut is too crowded with children and in-laws: “Bring in the goat.” The baker leaves the rabbi’s court and brings the goat into the hut. After a week of damage, smells, crashing pots and grief you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, the baker returns to tell the rabbi life is now intolerable. “Nu, Take the goat out,” says the rabbi. But there’s no way to make the old Jakafi price feel reasonable…not even by jacking it up 9%.
Unfortunately, this pursuit of profit recalls a more contemporary fable of naked abuse of power.
It’s true, we looked terrible. We felt weak. We needed a drug badly. He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. $8400 for a month’s supply.
We took it….but complained about the high price. The co-pay. Some of us couldn’t qualify at all. So we sent him a letter. He read it. And then came another offer we couldn’t refuse.
The Jakafi price was jacked up by 9%. The new price for us in some markets is $120,240 /year as of September 23.
Over the weekend we discussed this “offer” with Incyte. Here are abstracts from our e-mail and the full official Incyte response provided for publication.
MPNforum e-mail to Incyte, September 29
Dear …. Thank you for calling. I appreciate hearing again of Incyte’s concern for the welfare of MPN patients ….
The reason we’re focused on price is twofold: One is the impact on MPN patients; secondly is the impact on our medical care financial system…that has to pick up the tab. By far, our greater and most immediate concern is the MPN patient.
I would like to … return to the major issue in which I know we have shared concerns: Making prescribed Jakafi available to MF patients.
The price hike initiated last week … needs to be addressed as well.
… In answer to the Open Letter every MPN patient I know would welcome a direct and personal letter from [CEO Dr.]Paul [Friedman] – or another Incyte spokesperson – acknowledging our concerns…
Response from Incyte officer, September 30
To the Readers and Editor of MPN Forum –
All of us at Incyte respect the sincerity of your comments about Jakafi® (ruxolitinib).
We are intensively focused on developing new and innovative ways to treat diseases with serious unmet medical needs. Revenues from Jakafi allow us to continue to research other medical conditions and diseases, including polycythemia vera, where Jakafi may provide benefit to patients. These sales also allow us to invest in additional research to develop new medicines that may address other cancers and diseases with serious needs.
We believe Jakafi is making a difference in the lives of patients treated with it, and importantly, we have a strong commitment to providing patients with a robust assistance program that helps ensure that eligible patients in the United States who need Jakafi are able to receive it. Anyone seeking assistance in securing Jakafi or financial help with their prescription can call 1.855.452.5234 or visit www.jakafi.com/IncyteCARES.
These are important priorities that all of us at Incyte whole-heartedly support.
The Incyte Team
- (A link provided by the Incyte Team to a PR/Marketing document has been deleted; contact information to Incyte cares, above.)
So what if there was nothing in the Incyte Team response about this price hike? For those of us hoping for a positive response to our appeal it was disappointing. And maybe CEO Paul Friedman — or anyone at Team Incyte at all for that matter — didn’t think our concerns warranted an actual personal response. An anonymous corporate statement is good enough.
But to Incyte’s credit, the Incyte Team did offer some justification for pricing. Now the wrinkle is Jakafi profits are needed to fund the swollen fat drug pipeline Incyte built with Jakafi profits. The shameful Jakafi price hike wasn’t enacted to impress Wall Street and shareholders with expanded earnings per share, it was just, according to the Incyte Team, for the selfless purpose of helping cancer patients.
You can read about Incyte’s earnings projections and high-flying stock price by googling the company and judge for yourself. Meantime it might be instructive to see how the savvy Wall Street investors respond to developments at Incyte. Here’s this morning’s results, a week after the stock price took effect.
So why did Incyte raise its Jakafi price? For the simplest of all corporate reasons. The company has a monopoly on a drug for relief of splenomegaly and clinical symptoms of myelofibrosis. It may not work for everyone. It may not work long-term. But it works. Incyte raised the price of Jakafi simply because it could.
And our options? We can’t refuse.
Our only choice, for now, is to take the offer…if we need it, if we can’t wait for newer drugs. If our hematologist can’t come up with another combination that might work.
We can’t refuse.
It’s nothing personal. It’s only business.
– Zhenya Senyak
Our MPNs are serious diseases. We know that MPN patients must often be concerned primarily with their own care. Many of us can’t be involved in the battles against drug pricing abuses. A group of physicians and patients are actively organizing to drive down unfairly high drug prices through direct action: publicity, shareholder initiatives, calls for divestiture of profiteering drug stocks and legislative action and regulation. MPNforum will report news of these activities and sites where MPN patients and caregivers can join this effort.