Now more than ever, groundbreaking, new therapies for chronic diseases and infections come with high price tags. Earlier in the year, Gilead Sciences’ drug Sovaldi for Hepatitis C, as well as Vertex’s Kalydeco for Cystic Fibrosis, both raised eyebrows over their cost. Now, a new MS therapy is doing the same.
This August, Cambridge, MA based biotechnology company Biogen Idec, Inc. received US Food & Drug Administration approval for an injectable relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis treatment, Plegridy. The company’s spokeswoman, Kate Niazi-Sai, revealed last Friday that a year’s worth of Plegridy treatments will cost $62,036.
The drug, proven in clinical testing to be longer-lasting than the company’s original injectable, Avonex, is priced as such so more patients with RRMS can benefit from it. It costs a fraction more than the company’s oral MS treatment, Tecfidera, which costs $60,121 per year. Aside from receiving final FDA approval, Plegridy is also approved for sale in 28 countries across the Atlantic.
One of the significant improvements incorporated in Plegridy is the addition of polyethylene glycol, which extends the drug’s exposure. This allows MS patients to take the drug biweekly, compared to Avonex, which requires a weekly injection. While Biogen Idec does not have any plans to discontinue Avonex, they are hoping more patients will shift to Plegridy and that the transition is well-tolerated.
Last month during the joint ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS conference, the company announced positive patient outcomes in patients who have been on Tecfidera for 5 years. The drug’s safety profile was unchanged, and RRMS patients were noted to have improved long-term effects on MS relapse rates, disability progression, and MRI measures.