Apr 8, 2019

Gene therapies expected to come with big price tags

-cell therapy has been hailed as a major advance in clinical cancer care. CAR-T cells are genetically modified human lymphocytes and gene therapy medicinal products.

A lab technician opens a cryogenic container at the Paoli-Calmettes Institute cancer care center in Marseille, France. Photo: Gerars Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Dozens of potentially revolutionary gene therapies are in the development pipeline, but we haven't yet figured out how to pay for them, Bloomberg reports.

Details: These drugs are expected to launch with extremely high prices, which are partially justified by the fact that they're designed as cures for diseases that are currently treated long-term. But that doesn't mean we know how to pay these huge sums in one sitting.

What they're saying: Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said that one possible solution could be installment payments, per Bloomberg.

  • The company plans to use installments for Zolgensma, a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy that's expected to get approval soon.
  • Analysts expect its price to be $2 million, the first multimillion-dollar drug in the U.S.

The big picture: The FDA expects to approve as many as 20 cell- and gene-therapy drugs each year by 2025. Many of these drugs could have list prices in the millions.

  • “If we get to a point where these therapies become available not only in very rare conditions but in substantial patient populations, multimillion-dollar prices are not going to be in any way sustainable,” Nick Crabb, scientific-affairs director at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, told Bloomberg.

Go deeper: The drug pricing debate is stuck in the past

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