HealthDay News — Using the generic version of the cancer drug Gleevec could save patients and insurers millions of dollars, according to a study published online March 4 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The patent on Gleevec expired in January. The generic version of the drug is imatinib.

The researchers calculated that if all chronic myeloid leukemia patients began receiving imatinib immediately after diagnosis, the cost of treatment per patient over 5 years would be nearly $100,000 less than with Gleevec. They also concluded that the use of imatinib instead of Gleevec would save a health insurer with 100 chronic myeloid leukemia patients more than $9 million over 5 years.

“If we start all patients on the generic form of Gleevec and it works, then they are on a generic for the rest of their lives,” study leader William Padula, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a school news release. “This amounts to a huge cost savings for them and their insurers.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in the chronic myeloid leukemia market.

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