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Cancer patients demand Ono, BMS, MSD share immunotherapy cost
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2020.05.15 15:56
  • Updated 2020.05.15 17:15
  • comments 0

Immunotherapies Optivo, marketed by Ono Pharma Korea and BMS Korea, and Keytruda by MSD Korea, have recently failed to obtain reimbursement for expanded indication, as the government said such reimbursement would increase the national health insurance spending.

Unhappy about the reimbursement failure, cancer patient groups held a rally to demand the drugmakers share the cost of expensive immunotherapies.

The Korea Alliance of Patients Organization, composed of patients with leukemia, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), renal cancer, congenital heart defect, psoriasis, and type-1 diabetes, held a news conference in front of Ono Pharma Korea in southern Seoul, on Thursday.

The Korea Alliance of Patients Organization holds a news conference in front of Ono Pharma Korea in southern Seoul, on Thursday.

On April 29, the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA)’s Cancer Drug Review Committee refused to accept the Ono and BSM’s request to grant reimbursement for Opdivo’s expanded indication for renal cancer and gastric cancer. Instead, the panel allowed the health insurance benefit for Hodgkin lymphoma and head and neck cancer only.

The committee did not accept the MSD Korea’s request to widen the scope of reimbursement for Keytruda to cover non-small cell lung cancer as first-line therapy. The panel demanded MSD Korea draw up a more reasonable plan to share the high cost of Keytruda.

The patient group urged Ono Pharma Korea, BMS Korea, and MSD Korea to come up with a reasonable burden-sharing plan that the health authorities could accept.

“The pharmaceutical companies, which want to set the drug price high, and the public health officials, who want to save the spending on the national health insurance, have been confronting with each other over the reimbursement for immunotherapies without any concession,” the patients’ alliance said.

If the drug companies genuinely want to save patients’ lives by developing and selling new drugs, they should actively devise up a reasonable plan that the authorities could accept, the group went on to say.

“Keep in mind that while the health authorities and pharmaceutical companies wage a tug of war, cancer patients who cannot afford the cost of immunotherapies are losing their chances to prolong their lives or be cured,” the patients’ alliance emphasized.

Currently, expenses for Opdivo, Keytruda and Tecentriq are covered by the national health insurance in non-small cell lung cancer -- Opdivo and Keytruda in melanoma, and Tecentriq in bladder cancer.


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