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Worth the Price?

The price tag of gene therapies could push $1 million, according to Kaiser Health News.

Novartis has priced its recently approved gene therapy, Kymriah, at $475,000. Kymriah, a CAR T-cell therapy, is the first approved gene therapy in the US.

But Kaiser Health News says that the true cost of gene therapy could be even higher if other factors, such as the management of side effects, are included. "[T]he sticker price is just the starting point," says Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's Hagop Kantarjian further estimates that the real cost could be $1.5 million.

Novartis has announced that it would only charge patients if they go into remission within a month of treatment, though Kaiser notes that the company is still hashing out the details.

The chief medical officer for Express Scripts, Steve Miller, tells Kaiser that a better time point might be six months out, while Oregon Health & Science University's Vinay Prasad puts the mark further out and says the company should reimburse anyone whose cancer recurs within three years.

"If you've paid half a million dollars for drugs and half a million dollars for care, and a year later your cancer is back, is that a good deal?" Saltz asks.

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