A new drug, Luxturna, literally allows blind people to see. It does it by using a virus to insert new genes into patients’ eyes. This morning, Luxturna’s maker, Spark Therapeutics, is announcing the cost of this medical miracle: $425,000 per eye, or $850,000 for most patients.
That figure is actually less than investors and outside experts expected. In December, the investment bank Jefferies had forecast a $1 million price. At the same time as it is announcing the wholesale price, which will be discounted in many cases and should be paid mostly by insurers and government agencies, not individuals, Spark is also announcing a series of steps to help hospitals, insurers, and patients deal with the complications of this high one-time cost.
“Many were anticipating this was going to be over a million dollars because it’s a small patient population,” says Steve Miller, the chief medical officer of Express Scripts, who has often criticized high drug prices. “To be very frank, they’ve hit on a responsible price. Is it inexpensive? Absolutely not. But it’s responsible.”
Express Scripts is working with Spark on some of the programs it is announcing, which will allow insurers to have an option to receive rebates two-and-a-half years after Luxturna is giving if patients improvements in vision aren’t maintained. (In clinical trials, the benefit endured that long in more than 9 out of 10 patients.)