ASDA, a UK supermarket chain owned by Walmart, says it is committed to sell all privately prescribed cancer treatment medications on a permanent not for profit basis. The company claims this could save thousands of pounds for many patients.
The price of Iressa, used to treat lung cancer, is now sold at £2,167.71 in ASDA, the company compares this to £2,601.25 at Lloyds Pharmacy, £3,251.57 at Boots and £3,253.56 at Superdrug. Lung disease is the biggest cancer killer of women in the United Kingdom.
ASDA is calling on industry to follow its lead and do away with price mark ups on cancer treatment medications.
Cancer is responsible for the deaths of almost 300,000 people per year in the United Kingdom, the country's second biggest killer - for many (who cannot get NHS prescriptions for certain medications), the cost of treatment is well above what they can afford.
According to ASDA research, some UK high street pharmacies were marking up the prices of private prescription cancer drugs by up to 76%:
- Superdrug was found to offer the highest prices on four out of the seven drugs compared and marked up all seven of the drugs by 50% over cost price.
- Prices at Lloyds and Tesco were consistently marked up by 20%
- At Boots, all seven drugs were marked up by either 50% or 27.5%
- Pharmacy mark-ups - private prescription anti-cancer medications vary in price considerably between pharmacies, which can charge at their discretion and are known to mark up anti-cancer drugs by as much as 76%.
- Post-code lottery on cancer funding - the amount Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England spend on cancer per patient can vary by as much as 286%. This postcode lottery impacts patients as it decides the cancer treatment people are entitled to on the NHS.
- Variations on NHS cancer drug availability - there are considerable differences in the cancer drugs which are available on the NHS within each PCT. Drugs such as Iressa and Afinitor, which treat lung cancer and kidney cancer, are only available with a private prescription. This means that should a patient need either drug, they will have to pay for it under a private prescription.
The crippling cost of paying privately for cancer treatment has forced many people to spend their savings or even re-mortgage their house to pay for these essential drugs. We are the first retailer to recognise this injustice and to do something about it and we are calling on other retailers to follow our lead. It's a small step in the right direction but, our permanent 'not for profit' price on cancer treatment drugs makes them more accessible and can save people hundreds if not thousands of pounds.
Andy Clarke, CEO, ASDA, whose parents died of cancer, said:
Saving people money so they can live better is viewed by many as just the marketing slogan of our parent company, Walmart. However, when you see what we can achieve in areas like cancer and ivf treatments to reduce prices, the reality of that mission statement becomes very real and very personal. I'm very proud of the work our pharmacy team are doing to lower prices."
Additionally, ASDA is liaising with suppliers to organize further discounts on the trade price of privately prescribed cancer drugs, with any savings passed directly on to patients as soon as they are available.
According to ASDA research:
- Approximately two-thirds of people are not aware that private prescription prices vary between pharmacies.
- 76% of people on private prescriptions go to the same pharmacy regularly
- 92% of patients never compare prices between pharmacies of private prescription drugs
Written by Christian Nordqvist