Princeton’s President praises the lifesaving drug but neglects to mention how the University is seeking to block cheaper generic versions.
By Sebastian Jones
Several weeks ago I wrote an article for our sister publication, the Nassau Weekly, about Princeton’s corporate relationships, the potential problems they present and the fact it is extremely difficult for interested students and faculty to figure out what exactly is going on.
One of the examples I highlighted dealt with Alimta, a lifesaving cancer medicine manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly under a license from Princeton University, who owns the patent for the drug’s key component. As I noted in the story, Alimta can be rather expensive– up to $11,000 a month– and while some patients are hoping for a cheaper alternative, they will have to wait longer because Eli Lilly and Princeton have filed a series of suits in federal court to prevent the production of a generic version. If these cheaper alternatives enter the market, Princeton and Eli Lilly claim they “will be substantially and irreparably damaged.”
Eli Lilly’s motivations and those of the generic drug companies involved are evident: they out to make a profit. But what is Princeton University, a non-profit institution of higher learning fond of saying it acts in the nation’s service, doing in the midst of the controversial fight over the price and accessibility of pharmaceuticals and the production of generics? Follow the money:
Eli Lilly has told the SEC their arrangement with Princeton ensures the university a “single-digit percentage” cut of the sales of the drug in exchange for exclusive license to produce Alimta. Net sales for the drug topped 1.15 billion in 2008, meaning Princeton scooped up somewhere between roughly $11 and $104 million from their partnership with Eli Lilly. Beyond the licensing agreement, Eli Lilly has given the University $500,000 for an endowed graduate fellowship.