Gilead Sciences is about to add cancer drugs to its offerings, now that it's buying Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion. What does that mean? It means Gilead will get into the business of cell therapy for cancer. But as Forbes' Matthew Herper reports, it also continues "the unavoidable narrative of pharmaceutical innovation: medical breakthroughs at sky-high prices."
What it could cost: Per Business Insider, the price tag for Kite's cell therapy could be as high as $325,000. But there's a lot of uncertainty. Kaiser Health News reports that British health authorities say a $649,000 price for a competing drug by Novartis would be justified.
What the cancer treatments do: The personalized therapy uses the body's immune cells to attack malignant cells.
What to watch: Gilead chief executive John Milligan told Herper that the high price of the Kite therapy will be justified because, naturally, it's expensive to make: "The individual per patient cost to manufacture has got to be the highest in the industry."
The bottom line: There's an argument to be made that blockbuster drugs save money down the road if they can cure their patients. But given that Gilead also took heat for the high price of its hepatitis C drugs, it will have to convince the public that the benefits of its new cancer drugs are worth the price.