Genentech: Hospitals aren't telling us about distribution-related treatment delays

Genentech begs to differ with a survey finding that its new distribution method is delaying treatment for some cancer patients. Hospitals may be complaining in press releases about the change to Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin purchasing, but they're not reporting particular treatment problems to the company, Genentech says.

"If it is true patients are not getting these life-saving medicines, we are deeply concerned we are not hearing about it directly from hospitals or in a timely manner," spokeswoman Charlotte Arnold said in an emailed statement.

Genentech CEO Ian Clark

Since Genentech switched its top three cancer drugs to specialty distribution, citing better control over its supply chain, the hospital purchasing group Novation has been lobbying against it. Working with member hospitals such as Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the group purchaser has written Genentech CEO Ian Clark to demand change--and tried to draft lawmakers to its cause.

The survey, released early this week, was an attempt to quantify any problems hospitals were having because of the distribution change, Novation said.

Some 60% of the hospitals that responded to the survey said deliveries had grown unreliable. And 88% said patient treatments had been delayed because drugs weren't available at the right time.

If so, Genentech hasn't heard about it, Arnold says. The company received complaints about three patient-access problems soon after the switch--none of them after mid-October of last year. "In the limited instances when we have been notified of an issue, we worked directly with the affected hospital and immediately resolved the issue," Arnold said.

The underlying issue appears to be the cost of these widely used cancer drugs and the expense of carrying inventory. From the beginning, Novation and individual hospitals have complained that specialty distributors wouldn't offer the same level of discounts that they'd enjoyed from general distributors. In its survey, Novation said 87% of respondents reported their finances took a hit because of the switch.

Genentech has been distributing its newer cancer meds Perjeta, Kadcyla and Gazyva through the specialty channel for some time; Perjeta won FDA approval in 2012 and went into specialty distribution soon after that because of a supply problem. The company set up a hotline for any hospitals experiencing problems when it switched Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin, Arnold said.

- read the statement from Genentech

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