Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Plan on Getting Multiple Sclerosis Any Time Soon? Don’t

You Can’t Afford It, Pick a Less Expensive Disease

MS is one of the most horrible of diseases that attack a human being. The recent death of actress Annette Funicello, who appeared to be a nice and regular person devoted to her family brought home just how awful this disease can be.

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous systems of about 400,000 people in the US and about 2.5 million worldwide, disrupting communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Over time, patients can suffer from muscle weakness, loss of balance, and a progressive decline in function.

But good news, sort of, is at hand.  A new treatment promises to help.

The Biogen Idec manufacturing plant in Cambridge.
The Biogen Idec manufacturing plant in Cambridge.

Biogen Idec, which won Food and Drug Administration approval Wednesday to sell the twice-a-day oral therapy in the United States, said Tecfidera will distributed, stocked, and available to MS patients “on or around” Monday.

The catch, yes there always is a catch.

Biogen Idec Inc. said Friday it will price Tecfidera, its new pill to treat multiple sclerosis, at $54,900 a year per patient.

Officials at the Weston-based biotechnology company said the figure represents a “solid value” to MS patients.

“We think it’s appropriate price,” said Tony Kingsley, executive vice president for commercial operations at Biogen Idec.

Well it is certainly an 'appropriate price' for Biogen.  And no, this is not out of line with other treatments for the disease.

The cost of Tecfidera represents a slight premium over the the $51,000 projected by investment fund managers polled by New York research firm ISI Group. But it is less expensive than the first MS pill, Gilenya, sold by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG, which is priced at $60,000.

A more recent market entry, the Aubagio pill marketed by the Cambridge-based Genzyme division of French drug maker Sanofi SA, has been priced at $45,000 a year. Analysts said Tecfidera has demonstrated greater safety and effectiveness than competing pills.

And yes, insurance or help from the manufacturer will support the product.

Health insurance covers most of the cost of the drug for the majority of patients. But Biogen Idec, like other drug makers, sponsors patient assistance programs to help pay for the drugs in cases where all or part of the cost is not covered by private or public payers.

But if you have MS or are friends or relatives of someone with MS you know they have no choice here.  Pay the money or suffer horrible consequences.  In many countries that is called extortion. Because what happens if you do not have insurance and the drug company doesn't, in their magnificence, give you the medicine?  Well, in that case you . . .

In the United States this is called health care.  

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