In today's cost-conscious health care environment, the pricing of cancer drugs has come under scrutiny from payers, providers, policy makers, and the public. Large pharmaceutical companies are often cast as the villain in this debate. In order to shed light on this issue, Cancer Care & Economics (CC&E) recently spoke with Joshua J. Ofman, MD, MSHS, vice president of reimbursement and payment policy at Amgen, one of the world's leading biotechnology companies.
CC&E: In a nutshell, what is your role at Amgen?
DR. OFMAN: I'm vice president of reimbursement and payment policy, responsible for the design and execution of Amgen's reimbursement and payment strategy, and the integration of reimbursement needs into the product development and commercialization process.
CC&E: The pricing of Vectibix (panitumumab)which was recently FDA approved for use in metastatic colorectal cancer that has metastasized following standard chemotherapycreated a bit of a stir. What prompted this so-called discounted price?
DR. OFMAN: Although Amgen has extensive experience in supportive care products, Vectibix is our first oncology therapeutic. To allay concerns about the growing costs of new oncology drugs, leadership at Amgen felt that the best policy was a meaningfully lower price, compared with Erbitux (cetuximab), which is our competitor in the metastatic colorectal cancer market. In the long run, I think competitive pricing strategies will have a positive effect on the industry as a whole.
CC&E: Bristol-Myers Squibb has a Patient Assistance Program for Erbitux, which provides the drug free to qualified patients who are unable to pay. Tell us about the Amgen Oncology Assistance (AOA) program.
DR. OFMAN: We wanted to develop a program around Vectibix that balanced cutting-edge cancer treatment with what we a know is a heavy societal and individual financial burden. To that end, we developed Amgen Oncology Assistance, a robust, multifaceted, initiative addressing the needs of patients who are uninsured, underinsured, or unable to afford their insurance co-payments. All of these patients can receive Amgen's cancer medicines, including Vectibix, by calling a toll-free number (1-800-272-9376).