A generic for Revlimid is finally available. On March 7, 2022 Teva Pharmaceuticals released lenalidomide capsules, the generic version of Revlimid in the United States. They will come in strengths of 5mg, 10mg, 15mg and 25mg.
Individuals with multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and other myelodysplastic syndromes have something to cheer about. Depending on your insurance and the pharmacy you use (including receiving prescription in the mail) you will find a huge difference in price. It is always recommended to call ahead and around to determine your cost. Also, don’t forget to apply for Pharmacy Patient Assistance programs, and non-profit organizations to help with your co-pays and deductibles.
Revlimid has long been a poster child for pharmaceutical companies on how to make a ridiculous amounts of money from one drug. Revlimid was the flagship drug money maker for Celgene and is an example of how quickly and steeply a drug price can change. In a report in 2018, National Public Radio interviewed a patient who was prescribed Revlimid and who saw the price of the drug rise from $8000 to $16,691/month from 2010 to 2016. The current price of Revlimid is $24,366 for a 28 day supply of a 2.5mg tablet.
On Sept 30, 2020 Eric Sagonowsky published an article regarding Revlimid's aggressive sales targets. His information was obtained through a Congressional probe.
The Congressional probe identified reasons that Celgene raised the price of Revlimid numerous times over the years to hit aggressive sales targets. A 2017 document outlines how “favorable net price” changes would help the company grow its multiple myeloma franchise from $4.8 billion in 2016 to $8 billion in 2020. After that presentation the company repeatedly raised Revlimid’s price, sending it upward by 30% between January 2017 and January 2019, according to the report. In 2017 alone the company raised Revlimid’s price by nearly 20% in a series of hikes.
Most drug companies argue that the high prices constitute a return of the research and development cost of bringing a drug to market. However, for Revlimid this wasn’t the case. According to the probe, Celgene relied heavily on taxpayer-funded academic research to develop Revlimid. Consequently, its pricing decisions appear to have been unrelated to past or future investment in research and development. Alles, former CEO of Celgene, said they spent $800 million and 14 years developing Revlimid in a completely independent development program. He also said that Celgene paid “no negotiated discounts” to Medicare Part D. And on the commercial markets, no discounts were larger than 5%.
The probe also found the company’s executive payment system incentivizes price hikes and that the company targeted the U.S. for high prices because the federal government is prohibited from negotiating prices. Furthermore, Celgene restricted competition by using the U.S. patent system to its advantage by “abusing” a government drug safety program. It’s estimated that the company's “anti competitive tactics” are believed to cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $45 billion through 2025.
After reviewing this information it is clear that governmental negotations on drug pricing or other solutions are needed. The bottom line is, patients who rely on these drugs to live are quite often already financially burdened. The tactics that were used by Celgene is a testament to our need to advocate for reforms.
The generics that are now being made available in the U.S. and Europe are a long time in coming and a very welcomed addition in the fight against multiple myeloma.
Bristol Myers Squibb acquired Celgene in April 2019.
If you are struggling to pay for the cost of myeloma treatment consider talking with a Myeloma Coach with experience in financial resources. Diahanna leads a team of Coaches with experience in Financial Resources. Coaches are volunteer myeloma patients or caregivers willing to share what they've learned to help others.
about the author
Diahanna is the Financial Program Manager for the HealthTree Foundation, specializing in financial help for multiple myeloma and AML patients. As a professional financial consultant and former caregiver of her husband who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Diahanna perfectly understands the financial issues facing myeloma patients.