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Ways to Pay

The price tags of new gene therapies are expected to be "astronomical," the New York Times reports.

The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Novartis' Kymriah, a CAR-T cell therapy, to treat pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. While Kymriah has led to remissions in cases where other therapies have failed, it comes at a high cost: $475,000, according to the Times. Another treatment to prevent blindness in people with a rare genetic disease is likewise estimated to cost between $700,000 and $900,000, it adds. That, the Times notes, is out of reach for many people.

Companies developing treatments argue that the expense is justifiable. Gene therapies are typically aimed at small populations and, often, are one-time treatments that could replace years of other therapies.

But some companies and health insurers are exploring new payment models for gene therapies, according to the Times. Novartis, for instance, has said it would take into account how well Kymriah worked in a patient. Meanwhile, pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts says it is investigating a mortgage-like setup for paying for the treatment, and BlueBird Bio and other companies have formed a consortium with academic researchers to consider other payment approaches.