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Old 03-03-2010, 09:41 PM
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Default The World's Most Expensive Drugs

The World's Most Expensive Drugs
Matthew Herper, 02.22.10, 6:00 AM ET

When people talk about expensive drugs, they usually are referring to drugs like Lipitor for high cholesterol ($1,500 a year), Zyprexa for schizophrenia ($7,000 a year) or Avastin for cancer ($50,000 a year). But none of these medicines come close to making Forbes' exclusive survey of the most expensive medicines on the planet.

Alexion Pharmaceutical's Soliris, at $409,500 a year, is the world's single most expensive drug. This monoclonal antibody drug treats a rare disorder in which the immune system destroys red blood cells at night. The disorder, paroxysymal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), hits 8,000 Americans. Last year Soliris sales were $295 million. Since Alexion started selling Soliris two years ago, its stock price is up 130%.

Three other drugs cost more than $350,000 per year. Shire Pharmaceuticals' Elaprase ($375,000 per year) treats an ultra-rare metabolic disorder called Hunter's syndrome. Just 500 Americans suffer from the disease, which causes infections, breathing problems and brain damage. Last year domestic sales of Elaprase were $353 million.
Naglazyme from BioMarin Pharmaceuticals treats another rare metabolic disorder and costs $365,000 a year, according to investment bank Robert W. Baird. Viropharma predicts that sales of its Cinryze, a treatment to prevent a dangerous swelling of the face, will increase from $95 million last year to $350 million several years from now. The drug costs an estimated $350,000 a year.

Amazingly, many brutally expensive cancer drugs don't make the cut. Targeted cancer drugs only help a small minority of patients for a few months. This reduces their average cost. Allos Therapeutics' Folotyn treats a rare type of lymphoma and costs $30,000 per month. But the average patient is only on the drug for just a few months, so it doesn't make the list.

The price of each new rare-disease drug seems to get higher each year. It used to be that pricing a drug at $100,000 per year raised eyebrows. Now that price level has become routine.

Selling drugs for rare diseases has become immensely profitable. There are so few patients that companies don't have to invest as heavily in marketing. The medicines usually get paid for by insurers or governments. "I'm not aware of any [insurance] plans that have looked at any of these categories and said we don't pay for these," says Steven Russek, a vice president at pharmacy benefits manager Medco. "They want to make sure that there is no overuse or misuse and that the patients who need them are the ones getting them and there is no waste involved." The manufacturers give their drugs for free to uninsured patients.

The success of specialty drugs for rare diseases comes at a time when the traditional drug business of selling medicines to the masses is in decline. Medicines touted as $1 billion sellers for Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb have ended up with flat sales. Selling drugs for rare diseases ?is the future of the biotechnology industry".

Some competition is finally arriving to the rare disease market. Shire is waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve its new Gaucher's drug and says it will price the medicine 15% less than Cerezyme. Pfizer and the Israeli biotech company Protalix, are testing a Cerezyme competitor made in carrot cells that could cost even less. Novartis is also getting into the rare disease field. The entry of big drug companies, desperate for sales, could be what finally drives down prices of these drugs.


http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/19/exp...-diseases.html
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Old 03-03-2010, 10:22 PM
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What's worse is when something is expensive and is not covered by insurance. I have a pt who has anemia of unknown origin, requiring transfusions periodically. While in the SNF she was getting Aranesp and it seemed to be working. She was sent home with a script of it and we were supposed to teach the daughter how to inject. The daughter called me in tears one day; Aranesp is not covered by Mom's Medicare D, and one months' worth is $14,000. For some reason the doc won't switch it to one of the older poetins, he refused. So for now my pt is not being treated.
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Old 03-03-2010, 10:30 PM
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That's exactly the scenario that I was worried about.
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Old 03-04-2010, 04:43 AM
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What is worse I think is that the Pharmaceutical companies and penalizing those that have very rare conditions by making them pay exhorbitant prices for those medications. Simply a rip off at its best th_wait3
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Old 03-04-2010, 11:03 AM
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It would be Divine Justice if the family members of some of those pharmaceutical bigwigs developed, or had children with, a few of these orphan diseases.
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Old 03-06-2010, 05:28 AM
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That's pathetic! People who have special needs have enough expenses just trying to pay for doctor's visits, therapy, equipment, etc. I agree with PP. Who the hell are they selling these to? So, if you have money you may be saved, if not you die? What does that say for our future? Only the rich survive?
When my son was young I questioned the price of a special chair which helped strengthen his trunk and head ( it was wooden with straps for the head & chest) and I was told "it's a limited market so they can charge whatever they want". This kind of stuff makes me sick!
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Old 03-06-2010, 10:11 AM
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I would have studied it intensely, then gone home and constructed something like it.
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Old 03-10-2010, 07:48 AM
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I'm going to do just a tiny bit of defending of the pharm companies here--but don't smack me until you finish reading :)

It's worth keeping in mind that research, clinical testing, development and such for these specialty drugs costs into the millions of dollars as well, and there are many expensive failures along the way. It often ties up people and equipment for years before it can finally be considered a "go", the patent obtained and med released to the public. It's not as if a very valuable drug were dropped into their laps like a windfall.

Now, that said, it doesn't justify their raping the entire networth of a family to support someone's life-saving medication costs. Certainly they can recoup their losses and make a profit without such high individual costs. But then again....what if they couldn't? Just to play devil's advocate, if a drug ends up costing 5 million to see through to production, and costs another half a million IN production for that handful of people who it will serve, what SHOULD it cost? After all, the fewer the people to pay back the expense, the higher the individual cost.

Of course I realize that the pharm companies make plenty of money on drugs that have LONG since recouped their initial research and production losses. But maybe it's too easy to skewer those companies for their greed. After all, if they chose to NOT make the committment to create these meds, it wouldn't matter what would be charged, there would be zero treatment to be bought at any price. And then how many people would be interviewed who would say they WOULD pay any price if only the med were available....?
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabby View Post
What is worse I think is that the Pharmaceutical companies and penalizing those that have very rare conditions by making them pay exhorbitant prices for those medications. Simply a rip off at its best th_wait3

th_goodpost
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Old 03-10-2010, 10:22 AM
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What about all the money that goes into advertising drugs? The frequently-used ones, I mean. Why don't they try cutting some costs there?
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