For almost two decades, patients suffering from Primary Biliary Cholangitis have only one treatment option. This proves to be a problem for patients who are not responding to the available drug therapy. Primary biliary cholangitis is a rare form of chronic liver disease that causes deterioration of the liver.
Today, patients with PBC can have an access to a new drug called Ocaliva which is developed and marketed by Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. Approximately, around 40% of patients with PBC will benefit from this new drug. Ocaliva has recently received an accelerated approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
New Hope Comes with a Price Tag
According to Intercept, this new drug has a robust price tag of $5,700 for a 30 day supply. So, the listed price in one year is $69,350 or nearly $70,000.
Lisa Bright, Intercepts Chief Commercial and Corporate Affairs Officer, said that when they are setting up the price for Ocaliva, the company considered the potential medical benefit it can provide for the patients suffering PBC.
The company also noted that PBC is a rare form of disease and for almost 20 years, no new drug was developed. They also consider the consequences of having an inadequate treatment for a progressive liver disease that may eventually lead to a more expensive treatment option like liver transplant.
Bright also said in the press release statements that around 19,000 patients are left with no any treatment options. Intercept also assured those with underinsured or uninsured patients that they will be provided with a financial assistance. The company is also willing to provide the drug at no cost or at a lesser price as long as the patient met the criteria for financial assistance.
Intercept will also help those in Medicaid or Medicare to take advantage of the financial assistance offered by an independent nonprofit organization.
Overly Price Drug
Ocaliva is just one of the many typical drugs that faced criticisms because of its too expensive price offer. In the pharmaceutical world, the company who developed a new drug for a rare disease will justify their hefty price based on the rarity of the disease, the level of innovation, and the potential costs of the patient if they opt not to continue with the treatment.
Intercept rationalize that although, Ocaliva is expensive, and it is still less costly as compared with having a liver transplant. The lofty price of Ocaliva is almost near to the world’s most expensive drugs.
The bottom line is, PBC is a chronic disease and the patient may require treatment for a prolonged period of time. For sure, patients will have a hard time supporting their medical expenses. Plus, they may also have difficulty finding insurance companies that will help them support their medical expenses.
The thing is, even if the drug is effective, if the middle or low-income professionals cannot afford it, the drug has no use.
Hopefully, Intercept will expand their financial assistance program so more patients needing this drug will take benefit from it. This is also a call for charitable organizations to extend their help for deserving patients.
Developing a new drug needs a multi-million dollar investment. More so, finding a cure for a rare form of disease is another challenge for the pharmaceutical companies. Only few biopharmaceutical companies invest in drugs that target rare disease because of the limited market and only a few patients can afford the price. This is why; new drugs like Ocaliva are too expensive.
Hopefully, in the years to come the regulators will find a way to solve this Big Pharma issue. In the long run, it is the patient who suffers from too expensive drugs.