May 21, 2019 - Health

Former FDA commissioner: Gene therapies' price tags threaten access

former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb sitting

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Gene therapies and other new treatments that have the potential to cure debilitating diseases could also end up widening the gap between the rich and the poor, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes for CNBC.

The bottom line: That's because the expected price tag for some of these new medicines are expected to be in the millions. Insurers — which are used to pay for treatment over time — are struggling to figure out how to pay this kind of sum all at once.

  • The problem is especially acute within Medicaid, which is constrained by state budgets.

One solution is to mimic Louisiana's "Netflix model" for hepatitis C treatment, in which the state pays the drugmaker a fixed annual fee for an unlimited amount of hepatitis C medication for 5 years.

  • This kind of model, Gottlieb writes, is a win-win: Drugmakers can offer states better pricing because of the multiyear commitment, while states get to smooth out the cost of making the treatment available to a whole population.
  • "We need to make sure that access to a curative drug doesn't become a yardstick by which poverty is eventually measured," he writes.

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