Press Release, October 17, 2013
Coalition against Bayer Dangers

Alemtuzumab authorised for treating MS

29,000 Times the Price of Gold

For a decade, the active ingredient Alemtuzumab (then trade name: MabCampath) was used to treat leukaemia. In order to increase profits, this indication was abandoned last year. The drug was authorised for the treatment of MS under the new name Lemtrada and is now being sold for a significantly higher price.

In September, the EU commission issued an authorisation to the company Genzyme for treating Multiple Sclerosis with the active ingredient Alemtuzumab. Genzyme is part of the pharmaceutical enterprise Sanofi. The company Bayer was involved in the development of Alemtuzumab and receives a share of the profits.

Last year the drug was taken off the market as an anti-cancer medication, even though it is an effective treatment option for some forms of leukaemia. This decision seems illogical at first sight, but there is a reason for it: in the whole of Europe, only a few thousand patients need the drug against leukaemia. The market for MS medication is far more promising: there are over 130,000 patients in Germany alone, and at least 2.5 million globally.

Yet, a far smaller dose is needed for the treatment of MS – between 30 and 60 mg per year. 1,100 mg are needed to treat leukaemia. If an active ingredient is used for several types of application, it is forbidden to demand different prices for it, which caused a problem for the companies: if Alemtuzumab were to be sold at its old price, its use to treat MS would not bring them any large profits. Consequently, Sanofi and Bayer completely gave up the less profitable indication of leukaemia so they would be able to re-launch the product at a higher price later.

Sanofi has now announced that Alemtuzumab will be sold under the new name Lemtrada to treat Multiple Sclerosis. It is 29,000 times as expensive as gold: an injection bottle containing 12 mg costs €10,653.50, which is equivalent to €888 per mg. As an anti-cancer drug, Alemtuzumab used to cost €21 per mg, less than 1/40 of the new price.

Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, says: “Once again, it becomes obvious that Bayer, Sanofi and their equivalents only care about profits. The well-being of patients is considered less important. It also becomes apparent that the price format for drugs doesn’t have anything to do with the costs of their development: one drug may be sold for completely different prices depending what can be enforced on the market.”

The German pharmaceutical company Schering AG, which later merged with Bayer, was involved in the development of Alemtuzumab. Thanks to licensing agreements with Genzyme Bayer still profits from the marketing of the drug. In their latest business report it said: ‘We will share in the future success of Lemtrada through possible royalty payments, milestone payments and global co-promotion.’
//translation: S. Laimer//