The University of California at Los Angeles and drug companies are making an effort to patent a university-founded prostate cancer treatment drug in India, which has led to protests.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, the Southern California university made a breakthrough for the prostate cancer treatment and have made a deal with various firms that have advised it to pursue patents worldwide.
The high price for the treatment, sold under the name Xtandi, has led to a road-bump in India where the prices are too steep for many.
Protests were led by at least two consumer groups, the Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment and Knowledge Ecology International, according to the Times.
India is home to a major generic-drug industry, and the activists believe that if UCLA and Xtandi’s makers drop their efforts to secure a patent there, it will pave the way for the manufacturing of cheaper, generic versions of the drug, the report said.
Additionally, the activists believe that the generics would become more available in other countries if those nations knew that substantial generic supplies were available from India, it said.
According to the report, the drug companies should not be allowed to sell Xtandi “at excessive, unaffordable prices in India” because UCLA developed the drug “using taxpayer funds” through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Army’s prostate cancer research program.
“This is a drug invented on government grants that has generated billions in sales since entering the market,” Manon Anne Ress, UACT’s acting director, said in a Sept. 20 letter to Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, the report said.
“Astellas is pricing Xtandi for high-income countries and elites only in developing countries,” Ress wrote, the report added. “This is a direct consequence of UCLA management of its patent rights.”
However, UCLA said it is contractually obligated to help pursue patents overseas under its licensing agreement with Medivation.
A cancer patient typically takes four Xtandi pills a day or 120 a month, and 120 capsules in the U.S. market are priced at $11,463, according to the website GoodRx.com, the publication said. Prostate cancer is among those cancers “showing significant increase in incidence rates” in India and the prostate “is the second leading site of cancer among males in large Indian cities” including Delhi, the Times said, citing the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The activists last year asked the U.S. government to allow other companies to sell Xtandi at lower prices in the U.S. market, but the government rejected their request.
Medivation, UCLA and its partners already have made one attempt for a patent in India but it was denied by the Indian Patent Office, the report said.
UCLA’s group is appealing to the Delhi High Court, an appeal the activists have urged the university to drop, it added.
UCLA noted the “concerns about prescription drug pricing” among the activists and others and said it was willing to explore the problem further, the publication said.
The school said “we are convening a working group to evaluate our approach to technology licensing in ways that benefit California, the nation and the developing world,” while also continuing to give drug companies enough incentive to commercialize its discoveries, just as Medivation did with Xtandi, it added.
In the meantime, the activists contend that a daily dose of Xtandi is selling in India for roughly 40 times a person’s daily income in that nation, which they called “excessive and shamefully unaffordable.”