Today’s post is from Dr. Stephen Vogt, President and CEO of BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy in Altamonte Srings, FL. Dr. Vogt highlights one of the newest and most promising types of cancer therapies and explains how Pfizer is offering an assistance program to go along with the new treatment.
The Miracle of Targeted Therapies
A deadly form of lung cancer occurs in young people – the demographic just hitting their stride in life who least expect a cancer diagnosis. To add insult to injury, the young people struck with this form of lung cancer aren’t even smokers. What is happening is a rare genetic abnormality in which the gene called ALK expresses itself as lung cancer cells. If you can stop this cursed gene, then this form of lung cancer is stopped in its tracks.
That’s exactly what a new molecularly targeted therapy from Pfizer, Inc does. This therapy, called Xalkori (crizotinib), won rapid approval from the FDA. It’s a pill that is taken twice a day. Although it stops cancer cells, this therapy is not a form of chemotherapy; which means that it has a relatively mild side effect profile. But compliance with the regimen is of paramount importance.
Before Xalkori became available, patients with this form of lung cancer were treated with chemotherapy, with only limited success to show for their often difficult side effects. Xalkori, in the pivotal study that resulted in FDA approval, showed an impressive 90 percent response rate. Two-thirds of the people in the study had significant tumor shrinkage and one-third had their disease stabilized. Study doctors report rapid response in reducing symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, and chronic cough. As with most molecular targeted gene therapy, tumors resumed growth after a median of 10 months.
However, this medication is not cheap. Xalkori costs $9,600 per month. Pfizer has a generous co-pay assistance that will keep the out of pocket cost for qualified patients to no more than $100 per month with an annual maximum assistance of $24,000. For about 10,000 citizens each year, Xalkori qualifies as nothing short of a miracle pill. Look for more “targeted therapies” that have precise, dramatic life changing outcomes.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO