Sunday, 11 September 2011

News: Alemtuzumab $60,000 per annum

Re previous comments and posts on Alemtuzumab:

Genzyme May Want $60,000 per annum for Its New M.S. Drug

"Based on its superior efficacy Alemtuzumab should command a premium price. However, the cost will affect its cost-effectiveness and its license in the UK under NICE. Ideally we would like to use Alemtuzumab in early MS; a high cost will prevent this from happening. This is not good news for MS'ers; there is a high level of expectation and this news will dampen hopes."

CoI: Multiple


  1. New MS therapies seem destined to fail.

    The first hurdle (reason for failure) - drug shows no efficacy.

    The second hurdle (reason for failure) - drug shows efficacy, but there are (i) side effect concerns or (ii) high cost, or (iii) side effect concerns and high cost.

    Campath was developed at Cambridge University in the late 70s / early 80s. So there is no massive development costs for the company which now owns it (unlike Biogen and Tysabri). Campath (Alemtuzumab) has been used for B cell cancers for a long time. I think it costs £7,000. Some bright spark tested it on MS in the late 90s. It has shown tremendous efficacy. Side effects are there, but are manageable / treatable given appropriate monitoring. Given early enough in RRMS, long term remission is a real possibility. BRILLIANT news for those getting RRMS in the next 2-3 years. BUT greedy company wants to charge huge amounts which will put off NICE. If I was a crafty neuro - I'd ask my fellow oncologist to place a big order for Campath (at cancer treatment rates) and have a nice stockpile for my future RRMS patients. Not sure why the drug is priced per annum, given that it is given as a 5 day infusion, followed by a 3 day infusion a year later (just bring the second infusion a week earlier so it's in the same year). Don't we have the some sort of authority in the UK which looks at rip offs (Competition Commission?)? Every MS drug story (and I mean every one) always has a nasty sting in the tail and leaves a bad taste in the mouth: Tysabri = PML: Fingloimod = rejected by NICE as not cost effective; oral Cladribine = FDA not convinced by efficacy data; Alemtuzumab = some serious side effects + high cost. All we want is one effective treatment which is safe and moderately priced (and quickly passes though the licensing hurdle). Am I asking too much?

  2. The link (which I put in the comment) is from Dec 2010 when Genzyme was still in takeover negotiations with Sanofi.

    Sanofi will pay more to Genzyme shareholders later depending on various things. Eg $1 per share on FDA approval, $3 per share if global Lemtrada net sales exceed $1.8 billion

  3. I agree with the first anon. Wanting to charge through the nose for a treatment that can do so much for the next line of diagnosed is emotional blackmail, which leaves me agreeing with the second anon too.

  4. I read ages ago in the Wall Street Journal that the company were thinking of withdrawing alemtuzumab from the market as a cancer drug, re branding it as an MS drug and upping the price, and giving it free to cancer patients on a 'compassionate basis'. Someone else also suggested that alemtuzumab was almost out of its protective patent, so maybe others could start producing it?

  5. Re: "Someone else also suggested that alemtuzumab was almost out of its protective patent, so maybe others could start producing it?"

    Unlike small molecules it is very difficult to make copies of biologicals (protein-based therapeutics). In addition, the FDA and EMA expect clinical trials to make sure the biosimilar has the same effects as the innovator drug. So even if it comes off patent the hurdle for making a rip-off drug is very high and unlikely to happen.

  6. Surely it can be produced in generic form in countries such as India or China. Production would though need careful surveillance to ensure purity of the finished product. The drug after all was originally developed by a public institution. Why do scum in business get such an easy ride to rip off the general public?


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