May 8, 2019

A $2 million drug from Novartis is on its way

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

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

Go deeper

Updated 30 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has a single novel coronavirus case after reporting a week of no new infections, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Friday local time.

By the numbers: Nearly 6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.3 million have recovered from the virus. Over 357,000 people have died globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world with over 1.6 million.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,803,416 — Total deaths: 359,791 — Total recoveries — 2,413,576Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,720,613 — Total deaths: 101,573 — Total recoveries: 399,991 — Total tested: 15,646,041Map.
  3. Public health: The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders.
  4. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  5. World: Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S.
  6. 2020: The RNC has issued their proposed safety guidelines for its planned convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  7. Axios on HBO: Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic.
  8. 🏃‍♀️Sports: Boston Marathon canceled after initial postponement, asks runners to go virtual.
  9. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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2 hours ago - World

The eye of the COVID-19 storm shifts to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic has moved from China to Europe to the United States and now to Latin America.

Why it matters: Up until now, the pandemic has struck hardest in relatively affluent countries. But it's now spreading fastest in countries where it will be even harder to track, treat and contain.