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Novartis to charge $475,000 a patient for breakthrough cancer drug

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Staff Writer | August 31, 2017
Novartis has said it will charge $475,000 a patient for its new cancer therapy, putting it among the most expensive drugs of all time.
Bruno Strigini
Cost of health   Among the most expensive drugs of all time
Bruno Strigini, chief executive of oncology at Novartis, said: “We carefully considered the appropriate price and looked at many factors, including the medical and clinical value.”

He was speaking on Wednesday shortly after the treatment was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which gave Novartis a green light to use the medicine in children and young adults with a type of leukaemia.

The treatment, known as chimeric antigen receptor therapy or Car-T, has shown great promise in clinical trials, with the ability to send tumours into remission in blood cancer patients with just weeks to live.

But the therapy is complex and expensive, with a process that involves extracting a patient’s blood cells in hospital, transporting the plasma - normally by air - to a laboratory, and re-engineering them before they are returned.

Analyst estimates put the cost of goods at roughly $200,000 a patient. The price per person is likely to be much higher when accounting for additional costs, such as drugs to prepare the patient for the treatment and medicines to control potential side-effects.