A single injection of this one-dose medicine costs $850,000

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/12/a-single-injection-of-this-one.html

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So, potentially $2 billion.


This is why selling medicine to consumers can only be evil. The answer to the question “how much is a human life worth?” is “all the money.”


It doesn’t seem unreasonable if their R&D investment is the same order of magnitude.

The value of a human life is calculated every day by insurers. The answer is never “all the money”. Not in the US, not anywhere in the world.


The price or description of treatment is inaccurate. The treatment is one shot per eye and costs $425000 per treatment.

It doesn’t change the overall cost but there is no need te be sloppy and inaccurate on the treatment.


Indeed. How much money would an insurer pay out for a lifetime of caring for someone with blindness.

The pharma company’s market is not the blind themselves but the insurance companies that would otherwise be paying gradually to care for the otherwise blind people.

Also note that the treatment can only be used on those who are still young enough for the treatment to take effect and for the brain to be sufficiently pliable that the visual cortex hasn’t withered away/been remapped from disuse so “the market” is smaller.


So, what’s the lifetime economic cost of blindness? I’m NOT suggesting this ought to be the relevant analysis yet I do find myself assuming that the price given for this treatment (w/ or w/o the clarification offered by @pmhparis) could potentially be a bargain.


When considering if this is “reasonable” we also need to account for the fact it sounds like a one-off treatment.

I suspect it’s effectively cheaper than a lot of other treatments that have to be continually taken for years.


“Luxturna: Because vision is clearly a luxury.”


I’m going to feel smug about my socialised medicine while I can. In the UK, the answer to “how many cancer treatments can I afford” is “all of them.” If you’re in the USA, good luck with affording even one without bankrupting your family. I’ve seen breaking bad, so no lying.


Well, it’s clearly not “all of them” because the US cancer survival rates are substantially higher than in the UK. It’s “the ones that are available from the NHS, those you get for [included].” It may well true you don’t go medically bankrupt in the UK, but there are trade-offs.


If Martin Skreli has anything to say about it, the price will jump to 8 million dollars a dose.


Interesting. My “research” (a single google search, and only looking at the top ~3 results) says it costs $2.6 billion dollars to get a drug FDA approved. My vague memory was $12billion, so lets go with the $2.6b number. Assuming all 2000 people in the USA that could benefit from it buy it, and each dose costs $0 to produce, and that the R&D was also $0 (i.e. we only care about the FDA approval cost) my math still says this “should” cost $1,300,000 a dose to break even.

So either that $2.6b number is wrong (or it is a right average, but the std. dev is pretty big, and this drug was reliably cheap to qualify), or that $850k is actually a relative bargain.


They don’t pay that to the FDA, rather that’s the cost of testing and such, to meet the FDA’s requirements.
Which are not very strict.

So…I’d wager that while each dose is an expensive, bespoke build,
the drug company got a lot of wiggle room because it’s such a rare disease.


I read about this drug last week or so and from what i understand money would be refunded back to the hospital or customer based on the efficacy of the drug, if it doesn’t work at all they’d get most of their money back (i don’t know if it’s all of it or not), and if it partially works they’d get money back for that too.

I haven’t seen the video just yet, don’t know if it s covered there

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Drug research and development costs are effectively fairy tales. The tax writeoffs and subsidies are bewilderingly complex (I assume intentionally so) but no successful pharma operation pays anything approaching the costs they claim to pay.


The drug is single dose ever though, which is why it’s so expensive. If it required recurring doses the price would likely be lower, but since its intended to cure the disease coming up with a price for a fix for a rare disease a difficult and expensive proposition.

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I hope you win the postcode lottery!

FWIW, I’m a Canadian working in the US so I have a decent understanding of the differences between the public and private systems.

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Aside from any general-purpose accounting tricks; I’d imagine that this ticks all the boxes for orphan drug designation; in addition to possibly sharing some R&D costs with treatments for more common genetic disorders because they all require a safe-for-humans delivery mechanism.


Whilst technically true, also misleading. The overall mortality rate is similar. It seems like you may be more likely to have cancer detected in the USA, or detected earlier, meaning that survival rates are higher (period of time survived after diagnosis) without necessarily meaning fewer people die.

In short it’s very difficult to ensure you are getting a useful meaningful result with statistics like this