May 8, 2019

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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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post at the end of the month, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health