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Big Pharma wants to sell cancer drugs

Pfizer sign
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Pfizer's $11.4 billion takeover of Array BioPharma highlights how eager industry titans are to commercialize cancer medications, making cancer the most in-demand pharmaceutical asset outside of gene therapy.

The state of play: Big Pharma wants to expand cancer lineups because cancer drugs command huge price tags that health insurers and society usually pay for uncritically. 

Where it stands:

  • Merck is acquiring Peloton Therapeutics for $1 billion. 
  • Eli Lilly is buying Loxo Oncology for $8 billion.
  • AstraZeneca is paying Daiichi Sankyo upwards of $9 billion for partial rights to an experimental cancer treatment.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb is trying to complete a $74 billion takeover of Celgene.

And all of that is just this year's activity.

What we're watching: Array has 2 FDA-approved drugs on the market, Mektovi and Braftovi, and more in development. The drugs have high prices, and Pfizer is known for its routine price hikes — even in the face of political pressure.

  • Packages of 180 Mektovi 15 mg pills, 180 Braftovi 75 mg pills and 120 Braftovi 50 mg pills each had list prices of about $11,000 when they were approved last June. Array raised those prices to $11,500 in January, according to Elsevier's Gold Standard Drug Database.

Go deeper: ACA reduced racial disparities in cancer treatment access