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Positive Review

A Canadian expert panel report recommends public coverage of the gene therapy Kymriah if its cost goes down, the Globe and Mail reports.

Kymriah, a CAR-T therapy from Novartis, has been approved by Health Canada to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in adults, it notes.

An expert panel convened by Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, which advises the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on drug coverage, recommended Kymriah for coverage, according to the Globe and Mail. It adds that the panel made this recommentation because Kymriah is a promising therapy for aggressive childhood leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients who have run out of treatment options. However, the Globe and Mail notes that the treatment could cost the Canadian healthcare system more than C$400 million (US $302 million) over three years, raising questions of cost effectiveness.

In the US, Kymriah has a list price of $475,000 for ALL patients and $373,000 for lymphoma patients, and the Globe and Mail says Novartis is still in price negotiations with Cancer Care Ontario, which is acting on behalf of all the provinces. 

The panel concluded it would likely be cost-effective to publicly cover the treatment for ALL patients, as it appears to work better in that population, though not for lymphoma, but it still recommended coverage for both, the Globe and Mail adds.