Sanofi Halves the Price of Zaltrap in Response to Criticism from Oncologists

Sanofi slashed the price of colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap (ziv-aflibercept) in half after 2 oncologists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center publicly balked at the drug's $11,000 price tag in an op-ed in The New York Times.

Sanofi slashed the price of colorectal cancer drug Zaltrap (ziv-aflibercept) in half after 2 oncologists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center publicly balked at the drug’s $11,000 price tag in an op-ed in The New York Times.

In an unprecedented move, Sanofi lowered the price of its recently released colon cancer drug Zaltrap (ziv-aflibercept) in response to an article by 2 physicians who said they would not prescribe the drug because of its prohibitive cost to patients. The news of the price reduction was first mentioned in The Cancer Letter and later in The New York Times.

Sanofi and partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc told The Cancer Letter that even though they believed Zaltrap was priced appropriately compared with its competitors, they decided to reduce the price of the medication in response to “market resistance.”

According to The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines, Zaltrap’s efficacy is comparable with that of Genentech’s Avastin (bevacizumab), a significantly cheaper drug. Leonard B. Saltz, MD, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Sloan-Kettering and one of the authors of the original op-ed article, noted that the alleged “price reduction” does not actually translate into real-world savings for the patient. Although providers could purchase the drug at a rumored 50% discount, the “official” list price for Zaltrap would remain unchanged. In other words, the patient’s copayment and the amount that would be reimbursed by Medicare would still be based on the original price, rather than the discounted price, according to The New York Times. As a result, providers would make more money in the transaction—which may provide them with an incentive to prescribe Zaltrap over cheaper therapies with similar outcomes.

This type of price adjustment in response to provider resistance may become more common in crowded therapeutic classes, especially now that many health systems are beginning to place more of an emphasis on promoting evidence-based results, improving patient outcomes, and reducing health care costs. As a result, pharmaceutical companies may increasingly be expected to provide in-depth rationales for their pricing strategies—and market resistance could have the potential to drive actionable change in the way a price is assigned to a new drug therapy.

“US Oncology welcomes the price rollback, and since we consider cost, efficacy and toxicity to payers and patients, we will seriously reconsider the placement of this treatment on our pathways because of the cost reduction,” said Roy Beveridge, chief medical officer of US Oncology Network, a unit of McKesson Specialty Care Solutions, to The Cancer Letter.

For more about the impact of pricing on decisions about cancer treatment, , see ASCO’s Top 5 Don’ts in Oncology Treatment.