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The Price of Personalized

While US President Barack Obama has expounded the possibilities presented by the prospect of personalized medicine, his budget request also indicates concern about the cost of such tailored treatments, the New York Times reports.

In his recent State of the Union address, Obama announced a new precision medicine initiative, saying that such an approach could treat diseases like cancer and diabetes as well as help people stay healthy. One of Obama's guests at the speech was William Elder, whose cystic fibrosis has been kept in check by a drug that targets the genetic cause of his disease. 

However, such therapies aren't cheap and can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, the Times says. A one-year supply of Kalydeco, the drug Elder takes, has a list price of $311,000, though Elder's insurance covers that cost.

Other personalized drugs are similarly priced. The Times reports that a one-month supply of the ALK inhibitor Xalkori (crizotinib) comes at the list price of $12,000, and treatment typically lasts seven month, while a one-month supply of the protein kinase inhibitor Gleevec (imatinib) costs $9,210, and patients usually need it for life.

The companies making these drugs, the Times notes, have programs for patients who cannot afford the drugs.

Within the budget request, Obama has also asked Congress to allow Medicare officials to negotiate prices with drugmakers, something the agency current cannot do.

"It would be unfortunate if we make scientific progress and then price patients out of the drugs we develop through that progress," Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells the Times.