SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch cancer hospital Antoni van Leeuwenhoek is making its own version of an expensive cancer medicine after finding that the drug helps a new group of patients.
Vorinostat is used to treat a rare form of lymphoma but researchers at the Amsterdam hospital have found it is also effective on patients with melanoma which is resistant to standard treatments.
The drug, which is not available for use in the Netherlands, costs upward of $100 per capsule but can be produced by the hospital pharmacy for €1.50. This is legal as long as the drug is used for clinical trials based on a new application for the drug, the hospital says.
Merck, which makes Vorinostat, has only registered it for the treatment of lymphoma. A spokesman for the drugs company told the Volkskrant that ‘this medicine is still on the market but we no longer promote it or carry out any research using it.’
‘If this treatment works well for patients in our follow-up study, we will be able to treat a lot of people for little money,’ doctor Jan Schellens said on the hospital website. The initial study focused on six patients but this will now be expanded.
Between 200 and 300 people develop resistant melanoma every year in the Netherlands.
This is not the first time a Dutch hospital has opted to reproduce a licenced drug. In April, Amsterdam’s AMC teaching hospital said it is to start making its own version of medicine to treat a rare metabolic disorder because the medicine is no longer covered by health insurance after the price shot up.
That drug, chenodeoxycholic acid or CDCA is produced by Italian pharmaceuticals company Leadiant. On April 1, the company ramped up the price by around 500% so it now costs some €200,000 per patient per year. The hospital can produce the drug for €25,000. (DutchNews)