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NEW YORK Most consumers may not know a lot about biosimilar equivalence, immunogenicity or what “monoclonal antibody” means, but they know that battling a chronic disease can be a frightening and financially devastating prospect. Teva’s new TV campaign is a very sobering reminder of what many already know at a time when all of America is focused on fixing health care.
On one end of the continuum of prescription drug prices lies generic drugs purchased under one of the growing number of generic discount programs offered by retailers for less than $50 a year. On the other end lies biotech drugs that can cost nearly half a million dollars a year.
This is a reminder to politicians and voters that for many patients, manageable diseases carry unmanageable costs. This especially is true for such diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. Rob Day, one of the patients profiled in the “Patient First” campaign — itself a part of the broader Year of Affordable Healthcare campaign — was diagnosed with PNH at age 19 and must pay $389,000 a year for biotech drugs to treat it.
While $389,000 is an extreme example, most biotech drugs remain incredibly expensive: A year’s supply of Genentech’s breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) costs about $40,000, while a single vial of Elan Corp.’s multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) costs more than $2,000. Setting up a regulatory environment that allows expensive biotech drugs to face competition from biosimilars would help to alleviate the fears and financial strain of some patients living with chronic illnesses.