May 8, 2019 - Health

A $2 million drug from Novartis is on its way

A new gene therapy made by Novartis is about to come to market with a potential price tag of $2 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Details: The drug, Zolgensma, has the potential to cure spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited disease that often kills babies before their second birthday.

  • Between 400 and 500 babies are born each year in the U.S. with the disease.
  • The 12 babies treated in Zolgensma's first clinical trial have survived past their second birthday and are hitting key developmental milestones.

The imminent arrival of the drug is, unsurprisingly, creating new concerns about cost.

  • Drug companies, including Novartis, say that alternative payment models — like paying in installments or tying payment rates to value — could smooth out costs over time.

My thought bubble: The situation is emblematic of our future. With the development pipeline full of innovative drugs designed to treat or cure gut-wrenching diseases, the question of whether a baby's life is worth $2 million — and whether we as a society can afford that — is going to become a familiar one.

Go deeper: The cost of gene therapies could test the health care system

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