Patients brace for price of 'breakthrough' leukemia drug CTL019

Patients across the globe are bracing themselves for the price of CTL019, a new leukemia drug deemed a "breakthrough" by physicians, according to Kaiser Health News.


Although Switzerland-based Novartis, the drugmaker, has yet to announce the price of the leukemia drug, a single treatment is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. British health authorities have said that a price of $649,000 per treatment could be justified based on the drug's benefits.

"From what we're hearing, this will be a quantum leap more expensive than other cancer drugs," Leonard Saltz, MD, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told Kaiser Health News.

CTL019 belongs to a class of medications called CAR-T cell therapies, which genetically alters patients' immune cells to attack cancer. A clinical trial revealed that 83 percent of patients treated with CAR-T cell therapy have gone into remission.

A patient advocacy group, Patients for Affordable Drugs, is asking to meet with Novartis officials to discuss a fair price for the drug prior to the price announcement.

The advocacy group president, David Mitchell, said that CTL019 has the potential to become one of the most expensive drugs ever sold on the market. The group is urging Novartis to charge no more for the drug in the U.S. than other developed countries.

Novartis officials agreed to meet with the patient advocacy group and emphasized that they are carefully considering the appropriate price based on the value it represents to patients, society and healthcare, according to Kaiser Health News. 

The FDA is expected to decide on Novartis' CTL019 approval by Oct. 3, the FDA advisory committee already approved the drug earlier this year. The agency is also considering Kite Pharma's CAR- T cell drug. 


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