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Novartis' CAR-T therapy Kymriah price 'fair', serves pharma well - conference

by Catherine Featherston
BERLIN, Sep 21 (APM) - Novartis' decision to price its groundbreaking cancer treatment Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) at $475,000 in the U.S. is "fair" and will serve the pharma industry well in the current, highly pressurised pricing environment, a conference heard on Thursday.
"I believe the price of Kymriah is actually quite fair. I think there was an opportunity for Novartis to go for a higher price but it did well and I praise it for being fair," said Miguel Forte managing director of Belgian cell therapy biotech, Bone Therapeutics and chief commercialisation officer for the International Society of Cellular Therapy (ISCT).
Forte was speaking in a special session about market access strategies at the Cell and Gene Therapy Europe conference in Berlin where his comments were received positively by the other speakers and many in the audience.
"Novartis did the pharma industry a big favour by not pushing the envelope on pricing with Kymriah," said Joerg Tritschler, director in life sciences division of consultant Simon-Kucher & Partners.
"Imagine if they had gone to $700,000 or $800,000 - that would have put extreme pressure on pharma pricing," he added.
The price of Kymriah has been the subject of some debate since it was first approved in late August for certain paediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (APMHE 54476).
In recent days, pricing experts have called the price 'justifiable' but problematic for further approvals, while Wall Street analysts had costed Kymriah as high as $750,000 per dose before it was launched (APMHE 54486).
On Thursday, Forte said several factors must be taken into consideration when considering the value being brought by a new drug. In the case of Kymriah, the value being is a life being saved, he added.
One factor in particular, the quality adjusted life year (QALY) calculated by the UK's NICE is in alignment with the price, he said.
"Before Kymriah came out, in anticipation of the value and expectations of CAR-T, NICE estimated over 10 QALYs at a value of 50,000 pounds for a curative treatment in this context."
"So a calculation of over 500,000 pounds is an acceptable anchor," he added.
Another factor which is more complex but must be considered is the cost of episodes of care in the indication. In ALL, patients must undergo transplant before treatment with Kymriah - at a cost of up to about $900,000, he said.
"If you put all the factors together - and we don't know the final factor which is the cost of production, but we all know a basic figure - and we know it is going down - it is a fair price," he concluded.
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