[Ip-health] Amgen Leukemia Treatment to Cost $178, 000, Among Priciest Drugs

Elizabeth Rajasingh elizabeth.rajasingh at gmail.com
Wed Dec 17 12:49:16 PST 2014


By Caroline Chen  Dec 17, 2014 1:04 PM ET

Amgen Inc. (AMGN)’s leukemia drug Blincyto will cost $178,000 for a
standard course of treatment, continuing a trend of high prices for
immunotherapy, the newest wave of cancer treatments.

The price includes two $89,000 cycles of therapy, the median duration of
treatment for patients who responded in clinical studies, said Danielle
Bertrand, an Amgen spokeswoman. The drug was approved by U.S. regulators on
Dec. 3 for patients with an uncommon form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia,
a rapidly growing type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many
B-cell lymphoblasts, a type of white blood cell.

Amgen’s drug joins the ranks of several immunotherapy treatments for cancer
that will cost the average U.S. patient more than $100,000 -- prices that
are under increasing scrutiny by health insurers and lawmakers. Merck &
Co.’s Keytruda, approved for advanced skin cancer, will cost $12,500 a
month for the average U.S. patient, or about $150,000 a year when given
every three weeks. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy, also for skin cancer,
costs $120,000 per course, which consists of four doses.

“We believe the price reflects the significant clinical, economic and
humanistic value of the product to patients and the health-care system, for
an ultra-orphan population with a dramatic impact on a serious illness,”
Bertrand said in an e-mail. “The price also reflects the complexity of
developing, manufacturing and reliably supplying innovative biologic
medicines and local pricing, reimbursement and purchasing conditions and
Killer Cells

Blincyto works by directing T-cells, the body’s killer cells, to destroy
cells expressing CD19 proteins, which are found on the surface of B-cell
lymphoblasts. In a trial with patients whose cancers had returned or didn’t
respond to previous treatment, 32 percent had no evidence of disease for
more than 6 months. Reuters reported on Blincyto’s price earlier today.

The drug is designed to treat a segment of the 6,020 Americans who will be
diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia this year, according to
estimates from the National Cancer Institute.

Elizabeth Rajasingh
e*lizabeth.rajasingh at gmail.com* <elizabeth.rajasingh at gmail.com> |
University of Virginia
Global Development and Public Health

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