New wonder drug could cure a horrible disease — for $2 million per treatment
NEW YORK — A new wonder drug is coming for babies with a crippling, often fatal disease. Expected price tag: $2 million per treatment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Novartis AG is expected to begin selling Zolgensma, a possible cure for spinal muscular atrophy, after the Food and Drug Administration approves it this month.
Novartis executives say Zolgensma’s ability to curb SMA — a muscle-wasting disease that often kills babies before age 2 — explains the eye-popping price.
But it is controversial.
“A therapy is useless if no one can afford it,” a health-insurance industry spokeswoman said.
Insurance companies are also uneasy about paying for a purported cure when no one knows about the long-term effects. Zolgenma’s first clinical trial just happened five years ago.
Zolgensma is one of several new gene-therapy drugs that target a faulty gene behind a horrible illness.
The only other U.S.-approved gene therapy, Luxturna, costs $850,000 and helps children with a rare eye condition, according to the Journal.
Others include “bubble-boy disease” drug Strimvelis ($663,000) and leukemia drug Kymriah ($475,000).
What’s more, Bloomberg reports Zolgensma seems to help a wider group of patients whose motor function is slowly ruined by SMA.
But parents are bracing for a battle if the insurance industry balks at the price.
“It’ll be a big fight,” says Louisiana resident Andrea James, whose infant son is already taking spinal injections for SMA.
Zolgensma’s actual price is yet to be announced, and the $2 million figure is just an estimate. It could go as high as $5 million.
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