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Health care industry grapples with staggering gene therapy costs

Data: CVS Health; Table: Axios Visuals

The gene therapy pipeline contains several drugs that are likely to cost the health care system billions of dollars in the near future, according to an a new CVS white paper.

The big picture: Drugmakers are already having to come up with creative ways to get paid for high-cost drugs, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, and that's before these new gene therapies hit the market.

Why it matters: These therapies will provide medical miracles to patients who have long gone without cures for debilitating diseases. Some may even save money in the long run, compared with the cost of lifelong treatment.

  • But our health care system isn't built to absorb these kinds of upfront costs.
  • The impact will be especially potent for small employers, which could be bankrupted by one sick employee who receives one of these therapies.

What's next: CVS is developing an additional insurance product that it says will help small employers guard against this, among other solutions it outlined in the white paper.

The bottom line: Policymakers are stuck on how to deal with existing prescription drug prices, but the private market is beginning to at least grapple with how it will handle the cost of future drugs.

Go deeper: Gene therapies' accessibility problem