Luca takes a number of chemo medicines. One of these he ingests daily. It comes in a brown bottle, given using a syringe. It smells of sulfur. From what I gather, it basically is an effort to keep his blood cancer from returning, by preemptively poisoning those cells. It’s part of a multi-year treatment plan, which seems likely to keep his cancer in remission, ideally forever.
Luca’s supply ran out the night before. Usually we get our refills once a month as part of our provider visit, but this one wasn’t available. I was back at Children’s Hospital’s pharmacy, asking for a refill, and given my curiosity, asked why the refill was so delayed.
This medicine goes by the brand name Purixan. The pharmacist said it costs about $1500 per month. One bottle was supposed to be a 60 day supply, but due to an increase in dosage ran out in about 30. The insurance company wasn’t aware of this–yet–which was due to a quirk in the refill process I won’t get into.
What is Purixan? The bottle contains a liquid formulation of a common chemotherapy drug, mercaptopurine. Various purine compounds were developed in the 1940s, when it was discovered that “nitrogen mustards” (during chemical weapons research) had a positive effect on blood cancers.
The liquid form is to make it easier to regulate a precise daily dosage in children. For example, Luca ingests about 3.2mL a day, up from about 2mL when he started treatment 2 years ago.
The “adult” formulation is about $100 per month. Theoretically you could crush a tablet, mix it in with some cherry syrup, and save $1400. But since in my case, the insurance company pays for it, I’m not going to make the effort.