Large numbers of U.S. lymphoma patients are opting into experimental treatments in clinical trials versus expensive cell therapies sold by Gilead and Novartis, new data reveals, explaining why sales of the two products haven’t met rosy expectations.
Reuters recently reported on the unusually high numbers of lymphoma patients seeking treatment by enrolling in clinical trials.
Living in a Bubble?
Biopharmaceutical executives, as some might argue, live in a comfortable bubble. After all, many of them receive large compensation packages and generally maintain very comfortable lifestyles. This isn’t a bad thing by itself. Earning a good living and making a more-than-suitable income is an important pursuit. But ultimately, those pharmaceuticals that understand and connect to the markets do better over time.
With the shift to cell and gene therapies, advanced cancer drugs, and other sophisticated precision treatments, many of the drug makers are transitioning from the mass blockbuster model to the expensive niche model. The problem: those calculating market size and propensity to consume may be out of sync with market forces.
CAR-T Therapies—Drug Makers are Pricing them Beyond Reach
Gilead’s Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah, both known as CAR-T therapies, were both approved in 2017. Although powerful and potentially game changing, payers are not buying into the price points. For example, on the low end, these drugs will cost around $373,0000 to start for one-time treatment before hospital costs are accounted for. The reality is that there are a growing number of oncology-focused clinical trials, and with a growing variety of ways to connect to these studies, many are shopping for different options—even while very sick with cancer. When the entry price for the CAR-T is calculated with all hospital costs, bills can head into the millions of dollars.
The median household income in the U.S. is $60,000 per year—that’s it! And as the sales of both CAR-Ts—billed as potential blockbusters at their launch—have been slow to ramp up, it becomes apparent that the market may be resisting these choices.
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