Massachusetts biotech proposes installment plan to buy its drug: 5 things to know

Bluebird Bio, a Cambridge, Mass.-based biotechnology company, is proposing a new strategy to pay for the expected seven-figure price of its new experimental gene therapy —  installments, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Here are five things to know:

1. Bluebird bio is working on gaining U.S. approval for its first gene-replacement therapy, LentiGlobin, to treat a rare inherited blood disease called beta thalassemia. The disease can cause severe anemia, fatigue and organ damage. The biotech expects the drug to clear regulatory hurdles in the U.S. as soon as 2020, and the European Union is expected to approve the drug later this year.

2. The drugmaker has not announced the price of the drug, but it said it will be lower than $2.1 million.

"Whether it's just below or considerably below [$2.1 million] is something we need to sort through," Bluebird CEO Nick Leschly told the WSJ.

3. The biotech is developing plans to sell the drug on a five-year installment plan. Each annual payment from health plans to the biotech would be contingent on the drug's continued effectiveness.

4. Bluebird would be among the first to put payment by installment into effect. Typically, health plans pay for a drug regardless of if it helps the patient.

5. The pricing strategy is expected to be announced at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Read the full report here.

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