By Robert Preidt
The patent on Gleevec expired in January. The generic version of the drug is called imatinib.
"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, 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."
The researchers calculated that if all chronic myeloid leukemia patients began receiving imatinib immediately after diagnosis, the cost of treatment per patient over five 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 five years.
Each year, about 6,000 Americans are diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, which starts in the bone marrow.
Up to 90 percent of patients survive five years when treated with drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as Gleevec and two other drugs called Sprycel and Tasinga. The patents on those two other drugs will not expire for many years.