Bluebird Bio’s new gene therapy for a rare blood disorder will sell for $1.77 million in Europe. Another gene therapy shattering the million-dollar mark, but shy of Novartis’ $2.1 million-dollar price tag. We’ve arrived in an era where million-dollar gene therapies are the new norm, as drug prices keep climbing higher and higher.
Bluebird received conditional marketing approval by the European Union for Zynteglo. This will be the 2nd most expensive drug therapy to be approved in the world according to The Wall Street Journal. In a press conference, Bluebird Bio announced the price tag and the payment plans for their new drug. Blue bird will have a 5-year payment plan allowing insurers and patients to pay $354,000 a year. Not everyone is a fan of a pay as you go payment plan, investors have drawn concerns about whether Bluebird will ever reach the price set for Zynteglo. Since many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are facing pressure from regulations in the EU, a pays as you get better plan is not going to guarantee them the $1.77 million they are asking for their gene therapy.
Although investors are worried about their payment plan, data presented from Bluebird’s poster, Long-Term Efficacy and Safety Data from Clinical Studies of LentiGlobin® Gene Therapy for Transfusion-Dependent β-Thalassemia (TDT) at 24th European Hematology Association (EHA) Congress indicated long term improvements from patients taking Zynteglo. Data present at this conference indicates that patients continue to see benefits after a year. Where one questions whether is there a risk to have a payment plan?
Transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia is a disease that slows or stops the production of Beta-globin, a component of hemoglobin. Mutations in the beta-globin gene (HBB) makes it difficult for hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout their body, leading to anemia, fatigue, and other complications coming from too much iron. A problem that blue bird has essentially resolved for patients suffering from a mutation in their HBB gene.
The next question that we face is how will Blue Bird Bio price their gene therapy in the US market. They still haven’t filed a New Drug Application to the Federal Drug Administration, leaving us to wonder whether they will match it with Novartis’ gene therapy?
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