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Hard Work, High Price

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AstraZeneca has recently gotten a targeted cancer drug — vandetanib, for the treatment of a rare form of thyroid cancer — approved, but it has taken years of trying, says Forbes' Matthew Herper. Despite the approval, the restrictions on the medicine could make it difficult to sell, and might raise the price. Vandetanib failed in trials for non-small-cell lung cancer and bladder cancer before proving effective in thyroid cancer, Herper says, and this highlights the difficulties most companies have with making targeted cancer pills. Novartis has managed to profit with Gleevec, but that's a rare success story. "Now, with vandetanib, AstraZeneca will be facing even more hurdles. Because vandetanib affects the electrical activity of the heart, potentially lethally, it is being sold under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Doctors and pharmacies will have to be specially certified to dispense the drug," Herper says. "Pricing information was not immediately available, but given the restricted use and small population of patients who might use the drug, the price is likely to be high."

The Scan

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